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(10/09/2008) This Boy's Life: A Memoir by Tobias Wolff. New York. 1989. Atlantic Monthly Press. keywords: Literature America Autobiography. 288 pages. Jacket illustration by Jose Ortega. 0871132486.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Tobias Wolff has been praised as 'a captivating, brilliant writer-one of the best we've got' and 'a master storyteller, a natural raconteur' The winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction, he has now written his first work of nonfiction, a memoir that is sure to become a classic. THIS BOY'S LIFE is Wolff's re-creation of youth, so true in its every particular that whatever our own experience, we cannot help but recognize ourselves in this wily, peculiar, and ultimately winning boy. Separated by divorce from his father and brother, Toby - or 'Jack,' as he preferred to call himself, after Jack London - and his mother are constantly on the move. Between themselves they develop an almost telepathic trust that sees them through their wanderings from Florida to Utah and finally to a small town in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, where remarriage brings to an end the sequence of new schools and jobs and friends and suitors. Here his fresh start becomes a fight for identity and self-respect against the unrelenting hostility of a nearly Dickensian stepfather, and the boy begins the difficult, comical, dangerous process of growing up. Tobias Wolff brings to life the stuff of boyhood - paper routes and whiskey, scouting and fist-fights, friendship and betrayal--and captures as well America in the fifties, the time of the Mickey Mouse Club, the 'Lawrence Welk Show,' and the first Thunderbirds off the assembly lines. But his main achievement is the portrayal of the boy as he was: by turns tough and vulnerable, crafty and bumbling, recognizing no obstacle to miraculous change but the incredulity of others. His various schemes - running away to Alaska, forging checks and stealing cars - lead eventually to an act of outrageous self-invention that releases him to a new world of possibility. With great humor, force, and feeling, Tobias Wolff has given us an indelible picture of childhood.

 

 

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