Information about the author.
The author of the genre-defining memoir This Boy’s Life, the PEN/Faulkner Award–winning novella The Barracks Thief, and short stories acclaimed as modern classics, Tobias Wolff now gives us his first novel.
Determined to fit in at his New England prep school, the narrator has learned to mimic the bearing and manners of his adoptive tribe while concealing as much as possible about himself. His final year, however, unravels everything he’s achieved, and steers his destiny in directions no one could have predicted.
The school’s mystique is rooted in Literature, and for many boys this becomes an obsession, editing the review and competing for the attention of visiting writers whose fame helps to perpetuate the tradition. Robert Frost, soon to appear at JFK’s inauguration, is far less controversial than the next visitor, Ayn Rand. But the final guest is one whose blessing a young writer…[more]
In Pharaoh’s Army is Tobias Wolff’s unflinching account of his tour in Vietnam, his tangled journey there and back. Using his old wiles and talents, he passes through boot camp, trains as a paratrooper, volunteers for the Special Forces, studies Vietnamese, and—without really believing it himself—becomes an officer in the U.S. Army. Then, inexorably, he finds himself drawn into the war, sent to the Mekong Delta as adviser to a Vietnamese battalion. More or less innocent, self-deluded but rapidly growing less so, he dedicates himself not to victory but to survival. For despite his impressive credentials, he recognizes in himself laughably little aptitude for the military life and no taste at all for the war. He ricochets between boredom and terror and grief for lost friends; then and in the years to come, he reckons the cost of staying alive. A superb memoir of war, In Pharaoh’s Army is an intimate recounting of the central event of our recent past. Once again Tobias Wolff has combined the art of the best fiction and the immediacy of personal history - with authority, humanity, and sure conviction.
This unforgettable memoir, by one of our most gifted writers, introduces us to the young Toby Wolff, by turns tough and vulnerable, crafty and bumbling, and ultimately winning. Separated by divorce from his father and brother, Toby and his mother are constantly on the move, yet they develop an extraordinarily close, almost telepathic relationship. As Toby fights for identity and self-respect against the unrelenting hostility of a new stepfather, his experiences are at once poignant and comical, and Wolff does a masterful job of re-creating the frustrations and cruelties of adolescence. His various schemes—running away to Alaska, forging checks, and stealing cars—lead eventually to an act of outrageous self-invention that releases him into a new world of possibility.
The Barracks Thief is the story of three young paratroopers waiting to be shipped out to Vietnam. Brought together one sweltering afternoon to stand guard over an ammunition dump threatened by a forest fire, they discover in each other an unexpected capacity for recklessness and violence. Far from being alarmed by this discovery, they are exhilarated by it; they emerge from their common danger full of confidence in their own manhood and in the bond of friendship they have formed.
This confidence is shaken when a series of thefts occur. The author embraces the perspectives of both the betrayer and the betrayed, forcing us to participate in lives that we might otherwise condemn, and to recognize the kinship of those lives to our own.