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Tobias Wolff Biography

(1945– ), Washington Post, In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, Hunters in the Snow

american writer life prior

American short-story writer, born in Birmingham, Alabama; following service with the US Army in Vietnam (19648) he was educated at Oxford and Stanford Universities, then joined the Washington Post. Subsequently he became a lecturer at Stanford, prior to becoming Professor of English at Syracuse University, New York, in 1980. His two widely acclaimed collections, In the Garden of the North American Martyrs (1981; Uk title, Hunters in the Snow, 1982) and Back in the World (1985), both feature in Wolff's anthology Mothers of Life and Death: New American Short Stories (1983); his novella The Barracks Thief (1984) was also praised. With Raymond Carver and Richard Ford, he became identified with the ‘Dirty Realism’ style of fiction, featuring tough characters, similar to those of Hemingway, frequently elliptical dialogue, and an uncompromising approach to violent and unsavoury subjects. Like the other exponents of the genre he eschewed slick metropolitanism in favour of rural American settings and inarticulate, unsophisticated protagonists, although these are described in a highly articulate and sophisticated style. His autobiographical works include This Boy's Life (1989), which movingly describes his difficult upbringing following his parents' divorce and his long separation from his older brother, the writer Geoffrey Wolff, who also wrote a harrowing memoir about his boyhood (The Duke of Deception, 1979); and In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War (1994), which portrays his tour of duty in Vietnam and his experiences prior to becoming a writer.

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