May 17th, 2008
A new collection of stories from one of the great masters of the format; “Our Story Begins” collects 21 previously-published stories—some with minor edits—and 10 new tales. Each story is a well-polished gem, encapsulating a turning point in the lives of Wolff’s characters. Sometimes the moment illuminated is a small and quotidian one…a man watches a movie while his wife sleeps and their next-door neighbors fight loudly…sometimes a larger, dramatic one…the maliciously joking camaraderie between 3 hunters escalates into sudden deadly violence…but in each case, the story elegantly and simply captures the effect of our own inner lives on our outer lives. These stories are not complex and plot-driven; rather, they rely upon wisely accurate characterization for their dramatic tension and narrative force. Within a few paragraphs, the reader already feels he knows the characters intimately, and understands the shape their lives will take after the story’s end. These are short stories at their best, intimate portraits of deeply flawed yet utterly recognizable people, written with wit, wisdom, and a dark compassion.