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Before I picked up this book I was only vaguely aware of Tobias Wolff, never having, as far as I can recall, read anything of his. I did remember that he had written a memoir of his peripatetic childhood that was praised probably fifteen years ago. I was unprepared for the power and grace of this collection of short stories published in 1996. A little research on the Internet tells me that Wolff is primarily a short story writer -- he has certainly found his niche in that, although I gather he has recently written a novel -- and is a professor at Stanford. But, most of all, he is a born story-teller. This is not to say that one is not also aware of the lapidary quality of his writing. My point is that even absent his writing skill he would still be someone you'd want to engage in conversation, or rather someone you'd like to sit and listen to as he spins yarns about the mundane. The mundane is his subject, but like all good writers, he puts it in such a perspective as to make it new and insightful.
Others before me, here at Amazon, have written about certain of the short stories here. The stories' subject matter is, generally, that of youth and young adulthood, and most importantly, about observation. His protagonists seem to have a preternatural writer's eye, which is part of what I look for in fiction. That's one of the great things about a great writer -- that ability to see things in ways most of us don't.
My favorite story? Probably 'Firelight,' about a boy and his hapless but courageous mother who go to look at apartments. Simple plot, but with deep implications about belonging, what home and family is, and about hope. The coda of this story, with the little boy all grown up and with a family of his own, tells us, as so often in Wolff's stories, how childhood experience colors our adult lives. Beautiful. I suppose now I'll have to go and read everything Wolff has written. Nice to contemplate.
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on 19 May 2005
'The Night in Question' is indeed a brilliant collection of short stories.
I read a few short stories from this book at school, and simply could not get enough! Tobias Wulff has his own very unique style of finishing off each short story, by bringing other characters into the story near the end, the narrative perspective is changed in an instant. He writes his stories with such passion and brilliance, that it will be almost impossible for anyone to lay down 'The Night in Question' before having finished the short story, that they are currently reading.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes good short stories, and anyone who likes to lay down the book after each and think it through. There really is a lot more to these stories, if you care to read between the lines - a little less than what you might find in a typical Hemmingway short story, but the language of Tobias Wulff makes up for that.
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on 8 February 2008
Wolff's stories don't finish with a bang; they are rounded up with the last in a series of short and precise shocks, the effects of which refuse to leave the reader, lingering like a kind of tinnitus after the page has been turned.

One story, The Chain, begins with a middle-aged man watching his young daughter on a sled, happily tearing down the small, snow-covered hill behind their house until, out of the corner of his eye, he catches sight of the vicious dog from next door running towards her. He runs. The dog gets there first and grabs her by the neck. The pain and panic that Wolff conjures up in his next few lines does not belong to the little girl but to this ordinary man, running for all his life is worth, helpless until the second he gets there and, without thinking, wraps his arms around the mad dog's neck and rips its ear off with his teeth. It's a moment that saves his daughter but sets in motion a chain of strange, related events that changes the lives of a line of people who never knew they could ever be so connected. It's something the reader gets to see from a bird's eye view, as the story passes over the lives of these people.

In another story a woman goes to visit her brother, Frank. He is a man who's been damaged by life; he left the navy with a drink problem and arms battle-scarred with tattoos he can't remember having, but lately, back in his home town, he's come under the spell of an eloquent and fiery Baptist minister. Wolff sets the scene before Frank takes over and relates the minister's latest sermon to his sister. And in the telling of this tragic, local sermon Frank becomes a kind of ventriloquist dummy for the minister, spinning out the story as the scene becomes tenser and tenser. It's by no means the most memorable in this great collection but it reminded me that it's not just the stories that stay with you; the very way in which the stories are told becomes memorable so that the pages seem possessed with voices that are filled with humour, pain and absolute honesty.

These are just two of the stories I happen to have written about but virtually all of them deserve recollection. They are artfully told, compassionate and strong. And yet it's not all serious writing - there's comedy here which is only enhanced by the fact that it seems to happen at inopportune moments, as comedy often does, so that none of feels staged. It's no light achievement.

This is a memorable book of shorts by a writer at the prime point of his craftsmanship and would make an excellent present for anyone who's ever been thrilled by great fiction.
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on 21 June 1999
As a lover of short stories I have moved within the genre for many years. I have seen many different styles which in the case of greatness , becomes an author's autograph if you like.
What Tobiass Wolff does is stamp his own individual touch on everyday stories . He brings you beneath the skin of his characters and just when you think you have a bead on the character he is describing he brings elements into their characters which throw you and touch you.
A writer struggles in the condensed form ,that is the short story , to make his characters as real as he possibly can to the reader. If he is lucky he might manage to create that 3D image that sticks in the reader's eye. What Tobiass Wolff does is create virtual 4D characters. They are so vivid they leap out of the pages at you.
Anyhow life is short and I ain't no groupie. Buy the book and see a genius at work.
And then go buy all of Raymond Carver's books and see a completely different style from Wolff's but see the shared humanity that two men can bring to the art form that is literature.
And then.......well you'll work that out for yourself. I find that reading is like a giant paper-chase whereby you are searching for THAT BOOK and THAT AUTHOR which will bring some enlightenment . We'll maybe never find THAT BOOK or THAT AUTHOR but in the meantime enjoy the chase.
And hey , maybe I've just reviewed THAT BOOK by THAT AUTHOR.
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on 17 December 2008
The Night in Question is a collection of 15 short stories by American author Tobias Wolff. The subject matter is quite diverse -a man biting a dog, a reporter writing an obit of somebody who then turns up in the office, a car journey across a snow covered mountain - yet the main theme of this anthology would appear to be the deceptiveness of truth. The stories are well-crafted and nice lengths (I read a bedtime chapter/story each night!). Wolff is a great writer and this anthology illustrates his talents well.
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on 22 July 2013
...original, athmospheric, nothing repetitive about it.

And the "twist" at the end that is so common with short stories is more often than not psychological rather than a direct action - quite rare, I find.

HIGHLY recomment - also a really good book to give as a gift, both for native and B1/B2+ non-native readers.
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on 24 April 2013
great stories, neat volume, it's just not as lovely as the original, which was 'proper' silver and the brains were embossed - tactile
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on 15 September 2014
I like all his stuff - quirky but well-plotted!
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