In The Garden Of The North American Martyrs: Stories
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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."
tramp.” The boy and girl were forever getting the tramp out of trouble for doing things like painting garbage cans beautiful colors. I doubt that Talbot ever read my stories—he never mentioned them if he did—but somehow he got the idea I was a writer. One night he came to my room and dropped a notebook on my desk and asked me to read the essay inside. It was on the topic “Why Is Literature Worth Studying?” and it sprawled over four pages, concluding as follows: I think Literature is worth
“As long as he kept stamping papers and making out wills he could go on believing that he didn’t have limits.” Dr. Murphy’s fascination with Father made me uneasy, and I felt traitorous listening to him. While he lived, my father would never have submitted himself for analysis; it seemed a betrayal to put him on the couch now that he was dead. I did enjoy Dr. Murphy’s recollections of Father as a child. He told me about something that happened when they were in the Boy Scouts. Their troop had
seeming magnanimous. Sometimes he punished us for no reason, because he was in a bad mood. He was apt to decide, as one of my sisters was going out to a dance, that she had better stay home and do something to improve herself. Or he would sweep us all up on a Wednesday night and take us ice-skating. He changed after he learned about the cancer, and became more calm as the disease spread. He relaxed his teasing way with us, and from time to time it was possible to have a conversation with him
hard, alone. So I called up my friend Ralphy across the street. When he came over and saw what I wanted him for he started crying but I made him help me anyway. A couple of hours later Mother got home and when I told her that Father was dead she ran upstairs, calling his name. A few minutes later she came back down. “Thank God,” she said, “at least he died in bed.” This seemed important to her and I didn’t tell her otherwise. But that night Ralphy’s parents called. They were, they said, shocked
Enlightenment. The thesis was so wrongheaded that Brooke had assumed it to be insincere, but this was not the case. Abbot seemed to think that his ideas did him credit, and persistently dragged them into conversations where they had no place. After one very long tirade Brooke decided to set him right and did so, he thought successfully, with few words. “Excellent points,” said the chairwoman, a Dryden scholar from Reed College who wore sunglasses and blew smoke out of her mouth as she talked.