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This Boy's Life: A Memoir
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About the Author

Tobias Wolff lives in Northern California and teaches at Stanford University. He has received the Rea Award for excellence in the short story, the National Medal of Arts, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the PEN/Faulkner Award.

Reviews

In PEN/Faulkner Award-winner Wolff's fourth book, he recounts his coming-of-age with customary skill and self-assurance. Seeking a better life in the Northwestern U.S. with his divorced mother, whose ``strange docility, almost paralysis, with men of the tyrant breed'' taught Wolff the virtue of rebellion, he considered himself ``in hiding,'' moved to invent a private, ``better'' version of himself in order to rise above his troubles. Primary among these were the adultsdrolly eccentric, sometimes dementedwho were bent on humiliating him. Since Wolff the writer never pities Wolff the boy, the author characterizes the crew of grown-up losers with damning objectivity, from the neurotic stepfather who painted his entire house (piano and Christmas tree included) white, to the Native American football star whose ultimate failure was as inexplicable as his athletic brilliance. Briskly and candidly reportedWolff's boyhood best friend ``bathed twice a day but always gave off an ammoniac hormonal smell, the smell of growth and anxiety''his youth yields a self-made man whose struggle to fit the pieces together is authentic and endearing. Literary Guild alternate. (Jan.)

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner award for The Barracks Thief , Wolff offers an engrossing and candid look into his childhood and adolescence in his first book of nonfiction. In unaffected prose he recreates scenes from his life that sparkle with the immediacy of narrative fiction. The result is an intriguingly guileless book, distinct from the usual reflective commentary of autobiography, that chronicles the random cruelty of a step father, the ambiguity of youthful friendships, and forgotten moments like watching The Mickey Mouse Club. Throughout this youthful account runs the solid thread of the author's respect and affection for his mother and a sense of wonder at the inexplicable twistings and turnings of the road to adulthood in modern America. Highly recommended. Linda Rome, Mentor, Ohio

"So absolutely clear and hypnotic . . . that a reader wants to take it apart and find some simple way to describe why it works so beautifully."--New York Times

"Wolff writes in language that is lyrical without embellishment, defines his characters with exact strokes and perfectly pitched voices, [and] creates suspense around ordinary events, locating the deep mystery within them."--Los Angeles Times Book Review "A work of genuine literary art . . . as grim and eerie as Great Expectations, as surreal and cruel as The Painted Bird, as comic and transcendent as Huckleberry Finn." -Philadelphia Inquirer "[This] extraordinary memoir is so beautifully written that we not only root for the kid Wolff remembers, but we also are moved by the universality of his experience." -San Francisco Chronicle "Wolff writes in language that is lyrical without embellishment, defines his characters with exact strokes and perfectly pitched voices, [and] creates suspense around ordinary events, locating the deep mystery within them." -Los Angeles Times Book Review "Wolff's genius is in his fine storytelling. This Boy's Life reads and entertains as easily as a novel. Wolff's writing and timing are superb, as are his depictions of those of us who endured the "50s." -Oregonian

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