In the Garden of the North American Martyrsby Tobias Wolff
Among the characters you'll find in this collection of twelve stories by Tobias Wolff are a teenage boy who tells morbid lies about his home life, a timid professor who, in the first genuine outburst of her life, pours out her opinions in spite of a protesting audience, a prudish loner who gives an obnoxious hitchhiker a ride, and an elderly couple on a golden
Among the characters you'll find in this collection of twelve stories by Tobias Wolff are a teenage boy who tells morbid lies about his home life, a timid professor who, in the first genuine outburst of her life, pours out her opinions in spite of a protesting audience, a prudish loner who gives an obnoxious hitchhiker a ride, and an elderly couple on a golden anniversary cruise who endure the offensive conviviality of the ship's social director.
Fondly yet sharply drawn, Wolff's characters stumble over each other in their baffled yet resolute search for the "right path."
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.48(d)
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Meet the Author
Tobias Wolff was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up in Washington State. He attended Oxford University and Stanford University, where he now teaches English and creative writing. He has received the Story Prize, both the Rea Award and PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in the short story, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award.
- Northern California
- Date of Birth:
- June 19, 1945
- Place of Birth:
- Birmingham, Alabama
- B.A., Oxford University, 1972; M.A., Stanford University, 1975
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The Structure of Tobias Wolff’s In the Garden of the North American Martyrs Tobias Wolff’s In the Garden of the North American Martyrs is an excellent example of formal literary structure. The story unfolds in chronological order and has a relatively simple plot development. The main character is Mary, a single white female history professor, who has repressed her true opinions and personality for years. Mary’s life is thrown into disarray when the college she teaches at suddenly closes and she is forced to find a new path in life. The story’s plot is structured using location to set the mood and add to the suspense of the plot. Brandon College is the first location in the story. It is a location familiar to Mary who has worked there for fifteen years. Mary uses the familiarity of Brandon to learn how to safely navigate its politics and cliques. Brandon College is where Mary learned to repress her originality and opinions because she had once seen a “brilliant and original man lose his job” (Wolff, 1981, p.1594). Mary feels safe at Brandon and happily concedes her opinions for the stability. The first complication arrives in the story when Brandon College is suddenly closed and Mary is forced to take a job in Oregon. The next location is set at an experimental university in Oregon. Wolff uses the rainy weather and sub-par campus setting to set a depressing and uneasy mood. Mary is miserable in Oregon and wants to find work elsewhere. While in Oregon, Mary’s former colleague from Brandon writes to her, informing her of a job opportunity at a prestigious university in upstate New York. Mary is suddenly full of hope at the prospects of working somewhere else. Mary agrees to travel to New York to interview for the position. When Mary arrives in New York her colleague, Louise, picks her up and drives her to a solitary cabin near the campus. They traveled to the cabin during the hours of darkness, all the while Louise is jabbering about her problems. The darkness and seclusion of the cabin create a feeling of mystery and suspense. What will occur at the job interview? Louise introduces the story’s crisis in the form of a class Mary is suppose to teach as part of the interview process. Any chance of Mary resting and preparing for her class is ruined when Louise invites herself to stay the night attempting to burden Mary with her problems. Louise proposes Mary plagiarize a class from Louise which presents an additional complication for Mary. The campus of the prestigious university is the setting for the climax and resolution of the story. Mary is impressed with the campus and the feeling of hope and prosperity is abundant in Mary. While on a tour of the campus power plant Mary discovers there is a new statute requiring a female to be interviewed for every job opening. During her interview Mary realizes she was never going to selected for the position. During her class, Mary begins to lecture about Iroquois and their lack of mercy and brutality. At this point in the story Mary finally realizes she wasted her life being safe and conservative. Despite the protests of the hiring committee, Mary continues to lecture, finding her own voice. Location was key to the structure of Wolff’s story. He used location to frame every scene in our imagination and set undertones of the main characters psyche. The use of formal structure was brilliant in developing characters and building suspense. Wolff’s story may have a simple structure but his brilliant use of the structure and themes made the story a classic example of writing. Wolff, T. (1981). In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, in R. Bausch & R. Cassill, The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, 1594 -1602. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.
First published in 1981, this was the debut of Tobias Wolff, who--along with writers such as Gina Berriault, Raymond Carver, and Andre Dubus--created a renaissance of the American short story in the 1970s and 80s. A number of the settings are academic, which may be off-putting to some readers, but the characters are deep and complex. All inhabit a world in which the comforts of family, friendship, and civility are constantly being eroded. In direct but elegant language, we follow these characters' struggles to maintain dignity. If you enjoy short stories, this is a must-read.
The best, tremendous, practically perfect, one of my favorites? Thats what everyone seem says in their reviews about Tobias Wolff''s short stories. "In the Garden of the North American Martyrs" is a quality collection, but alot of the writing is dry and outdated. Compared to other collections of short stories, Wolff's collection just doesn't match up. These stories were written between 1976 & 1981 and that explains alot in my opinion. Several of the stories are really dull and the topics really leave off without grabbing your attention. Those stories that I did enjoy: Wingfield Poaching The Liar Although this book didn't wow me, I'm looking forward to reading his newer short story collection "The Night in Question"