This Boy's Life: A Memoir

This Boy's Life: A MemoirThis Boy s Life is a memoir about the author Tobias Wolff Although, for most of this book he picks a different name Jack I immediately got swept up in the life of Jack and his mother as they leave place after place, boyfriend after boyfriend We start as they leave from Florida to head to Utah and we quickly understand the instability of Jack s life Eventually she re marries a crazy man named Dwight, who constantly is on some power trip and takes control of Jack s life That is, until he takes it back.I enjoyed this memoir it hit a point where I realized we were only getting a snippet of Wolff s life This book kept moving and we didn t move forward in Jack s life I can understand spending this time developing Jack s rationale for some of his decisions and looking back to evaluate what impacted his life It just felt stuck for me towards the end, then a quick summary of what happened next didn t feel fluid as the rest of the book did I enjoyed the antics, but ultimately left unsatisfied This book now struck a chord with all the gun violence and Nazi sentiments to this current point in our history It was an interesting juxtaposition given the environment today and history s cyclical performance My first book by Mr Wolff and a peek into his juvenile life that made him successful today. I saw the movie with Leo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro many years before reading this book I loved the film and I also think it does justice to this fine book Very poignant and engaging throughout THIS BOY S LIFE is an excellent read. I don t know if I ve been specifically targeting good reads subconsciously or if I ve just been lucky that they re falling into my lap Regardless, the kinda funny, a little sad, quite insightful This Boy s Life by Tobias Wolff struck the old chord with me and continued that trend Long may it last As a somewhat rudderless boy myself I enjoyed this story of a somewhat rudderless boy growing up with only a transient mother and the occasional uncaring, abusive stepfather This is a fairly typical coming of age tale, which in this case includes vignettes on getting into fights, making and breaking friendships, girls and their potential for a horny young man, trying to be cool, cars, guns, etc and then some Published in 89, this feels a whole lot older Probably because it mostly describes things that happened in the late 50s and early 60s It reminds me a bit of A Christmas Story in that way, just morbid Perhaps likening it the tv show The Wonder Years would be to the mark Yes, just think of the young Tobias as a real, less Hollywood chipper Kevin Arnold.Wolff s prose is a joy to read Every once in a while he lays down a sweet ass line that makes ya go hmmm does the Arsenio move There were times when I got quite lost in his words However, this is a particularly intimate memoir and there are a few intense moments that draw you right into the scene, making you hold your breath and possibly pray for a positive outcome That s quality writing.While I doubt this will be a five star book for everyone, Wolfe s writing style and the stories he told were utterly relatable in my mind The book felt familiar to me and some of the aspects of my own coming of age story However, even readers who can t relate personally to the content should still be able to derive a good deal of enjoyment from it. Life is a turkey shootYeah, you know, sometimes you shoot so well and win the turkey, sometimes you lose, and sometimes there isn t even any turkey You could try to be honest and keep your nose clean, but it doesn t guarantee anything A screwed up kid who lies, cheats, forges documents, drinks, and steals, not to mention damaging property, gets kicked out of schools, but winds up with a degree from Oxford, a nationally famous writer and professor at one of the best universities He writes clear, strong prose that stays with you for a long time Read this book or In Pharaoh s Army or some of his short stories This is the story of his teenage years, mostly in Washington state, in a town called Concrete An absent father, a Pollyannaish mother, and an abusive stepfather all created a kind of hell on earth for Tobias Wolff But when you re that age, you re not sure Maybe that s the way it s supposed to be This is a book that doesn t excuse himself, it s just all there in black and white You could see the 1993 movie too, with Leonardo di Caprio in the title role, and with Robert de Niro as the abusive stepfather Ellen Barkin is lovely as the mother But the book is far richer Tobias never got to even compete in that turkey shoot way back then, but I reckon he got the prize in Life It s definitely an American classic along with his book on Vietnam. DNFI read just over half before calling it quits.Toby s life really wasn t as bad as I expected Whether or not that s because of the way he tells his story, I m not sure It was flat and lacked feeling very matter of fact.The narrative itself seemed endless It s dreary, slow and boring It also jumps around at times, enough to be confusing.All this was bad enough, but I soldiered valiantly onwardsuntil it came to Toby beating the family dog with a floor mop A hunting dog that hid in fear at the first sound of a gun shot I went searching reviews, and learned there was to come, involving shooting at cats Big, brave Toby I only hope someone took pot shots at him, and then beat him with a floor mop Find all of my reviews at read this book almost two months ago and have struggled to come up with some kind any kind of review Sometimes when I read a memoir I m struck with the question what made this person think their personal history was novel worthy Such is the case with This Boy s Life Sure Tobias Wolf had a shitty childhood, but when compared to other autobiographies Night stands out as the most monumental personal history I can think of, or even The Glass Castle as the most bizarre Those are books that must have begged to be written Whatever the reasoning behind Wolff s decision to write his story, I m glad he did I believe Wolff s honesty while telling his tale is both what made this book so memorable and made it so hard for me to summarize Not only does he tell us about his stepfather, who was a real piece of work, but he is also honest about the fact that he was than a handful himself during his formative years While I wanted to jump into the pages and beat the living hell out of Dwight, at times I also wanted to jump in to wash Wolff s mouth out with soap or give him a good throttling.This book is so well written and reads like fiction A truly unforgettable coming of age story If you re generally not the sort who reads non fiction, this is a great choice Sidenote The movie adaptation features a fresh faced young boy who will give us a glimpse of the brilliant career that is to follow. Knowing that everything comes to an end is a gift of experience, a consolation gift for knowing that we ourselves are coming to an end Before we get it we live in a continuous present, and imagine the future as of that present Happiness is endless happiness, innocent of its own sure passing Pain is endless painTobias Wolff, This Boy s LifeOne of my favorite memoirs of all time IT was perfect in its pacing, its pitch It was a beautiful, but unsentimental look at youth, poverty, family, and all the cracks and fissures that the world creates to swallow the dreams of youth Wolff s language still rings with me I find myself, going back and reading whole passages of This Boy s Life just to drink the language and the rub against the energy and charge of Wolff s vitality A good memoirist gets the reader to experience the artist s past life through his words, a great memoirist seduces the reader into a place where the reader suddenly recognizes the universal experiences in our shared lives There were parts of the book I felt like Tobias Wolff was not writing his history, but mine The details of our lives might have been different, our stories might be adolescent antipoles, but I read Wolff and I think he has robbed me of my emotions, faked my youthful hope, slandered my stripling reputation, and squandered all of my schoolboy potential. I can t very well articulate why this book elicited a 5 star response from me, which is why I enjoyed it so much Despite not being able to put my finger on it, I found myself wanting to get back to it all the time.Not a reaction I typically have to memoirs by established authors.He spoke in away that maintained the feel of adolescence without condescending hindsight or grandiose naivety The writing seems so simple and concise and yet there were numerous times when I had to fight my urge to underline the threading together of 3 or 4 words note to Sarah I kept your book as pristine as the day I pilfered it from your house The description of watching t.v in a dark room with his step father keeps coming to mind p.s Sarah it s on your desk at work thanks How Do Any of Us Survive This is the fourth memoir of a less than ideal childhood I ve read in as many weeks I have to say it s getting a bit old, all this overcoming adversity stuff But I think it s safe to say that Tolstoy had it wrong Unhappy families are just as unvarying and just as routine as happy ones But at least occasionally the unhappy ones are interesting, sometimes even revelatory Wolfe s memoir is interesting to me because he understands how his childhood shaped his culture not just his specific fears and aspirations mostly about violence but also his responses to the world in general His childhood, as that of all of us, created the character we attribute to the universe as well as our own To get that and consider both aspects of character may be about as close to maturity as we can get.So, for example, Wolff is able to articulate a basic relation which the child has intuitedPower can be enjoyed only when it is recognized and feared Fearlessness in those without power is maddening to those who have it The implication of course is a sort of Don Quixote self image which incites and justifies all sorts of boyish bad behavior But it is also worth noting that he is talking about a relationship here, and therefore a dynamic explanation, a theory of the world and how it works This is what s called a zero sun relation if you win, I lose Therefore, if I can t win, I make sure you can t either Pretty sophisticated stuff But then children are always sophisticated than adults remember.To appreciate that one s life has been shaped by a rather clever inference about the world is clearly a sort of breakthrough The fact that others like me might have adopted similar theories of living is probably sufficient justification for publication The theory allowed him to negotiate life as a boy and as a young man it helped Wolff to survive In short, Wolff s puerile logic worked power could be withstood, and even occasionally overcome Not bad for a boy from a broken family, growing up poor and with no obvious prospects.But of course the very success of this strategy for contending with power masks a deeper issue which is also very practical but by its nature must be raised in philosophical language Is one s life best spent contending with power Success in beating power at its own game may be considered successful merely because of the deprivations one has experienced Couldn t it be that it is just this criterion of success which has to be overcome, that perhaps the world isn t primarily an arena of power exercised and power subverted or deflected This is not an easy thing to even allow into consciousness much less address The last thing any of us wants to do is question what we have implicitly lived our lives for It takes a particular sort of lonely courage to permit it to percolate up through layers of experience acquired and confirmed over decades What we value is its own measure of success after all If power is what we have valued, giving it up as unimportant feels like giving up one s life.Because the memoir ends in late adolescence, there is only a hint that Wolff s worldview of power and its control is starting to crack He has a horrifying thought at one point, for example, that his behavior just might be asolemn choreography of earnest useless acts And that perhaps the spectrum of power relationships he has inferred doesn t exhaust the range of human lifeIt takes a childish or corrupt imagination to make symbols of other people,he says He knows he must somehow redeem himself, but that in order to have ahope of another s idea of redemption I would have to give up my own A bird in the hand means one can t do anything else with that hand So it s likely that most of us go through life self handicapped by our successes. This Unforgettable Memoir, By One Of Our Most Gifted Writers, Introduces Us To The Young Toby Wolff, By Turns Tough And Vulnerable, Crafty And Bumbling, And Ultimately Winning Separated By Divorce From His Father And Brother, Toby And His Mother Are Constantly On The Move, Yet They Develop An Extraordinarily Close, Almost Telepathic Relationship As Toby Fights For Identity And Self Respect Against The Unrelenting Hostility Of A New Stepfather, His Experiences Are At Once Poignant And Comical, And Wolff Does A Masterful Job Of Re Creating The Frustrations And Cruelties Of Adolescence His Various Schemes Running Away To Alaska, Forging Checks, And Stealing Cars Lead Eventually To An Act Of Outrageous Self Invention That Releases Him Into A New World Of Possibility

Tobias Jonathan Ansell Wolff is a writer of fiction and nonfiction.He is best known for his short stories and his memoirs, although he has written two novels.Wolff is the Ward W and Priscilla B Woods Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, where he has taught classes in English and creative writing since 1997 He also served as the director of the Creative Writ

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  • Paperback
  • 243 pages
  • This Boy's Life: A Memoir
  • Tobias Wolff
  • English
  • 09 July 2017

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