This Boy's Life
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This Boy's Life

By (author) Tobias Wolff

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The author of "The Barracks Thief" and "Hunters in the Snow" recreates his boyhood experiences, relating how he and his mother travelled throughout the United States, and tracing his experiences and changes from young boy to manhood against the background of a violent and wildly optimistic America.

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  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 128 x 192 x 20mm | 240.41g
  • 19 Aug 1999
  • Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • London
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0747546010
  • 9780747546016
  • 6,473

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Author Information

The author of three collections of stories, Tobias Wolff lives with his family near Stanford University, where he is the director of the creative writing program.

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Review text

Wolff shifts to nonfiction in this jewel-like memoir of childhood in the 1950's. Despite the all-American props - Boy Scouts, cars, basketball - this boyhood unfolds light-years away from suburban heaven, offering instead a divorced mother and her angry son trying with little success to cut a piece of the American pie. Wolff sets the tone right off the bat, as he and his mom, driving to Utah to strike it rich as uranium prospectors, watch a truck careen towards a fatal crash. From then on, one dark episode follows another. Wolff recalls his early years in Florida, where he shoots arrows at friends and lies in the confessional. When he and his doting mom finally settle in Seattle, he becomes a petty delinquent, shoplifting, drinking, writing bad checks, breaking windows, scrawling obscenities on walls. Some of this seems reaction against his wealthy, estranged father, now dead, about whom he feels "grief and rage, mostly rage." Most adults treat him shabbily - a problem accentuated when his mother links up with a man named Dwight, a Lawrence Welk freak who smells of turpentine and brutalizes Wolff into husking chestnuts until his fingers bleed. He finds some relief in the Boy Scouts, which offers "the clean possibility of mastery"; in high school, he dreams of running away to Alaska, but instead he escapes to a prep school in Pennsylvania. An honest memoir that puts a new spin on familiar boyhood rituals: many authors have recalled watching Annette on the Mickey Mouse Club, but how many write about their buddies shouting crude sexual come-ons at the screen? Lucid, bitter, precise, terribly sad: the real-life equivalent of Wolff's acclaimed fiction. (Kirkus Reviews)

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