Tobias Wolff: This Boys Life



This show began over thirty years ago and one of the first books that was on. This show was a book. A memoir called this boy's life. It's by my guest Tobias Wolff now the original publisher Grove has published a thirtieth anniversary edition of this boy's life. I'll tell you if you do a book show and I know you don't you. Don't get to re read the books that you read thirty years ago and so I re- read this boy's life. It's better than I remembered it even originally and I loved it originally. Tell me. Did you ever expect that your hands would be dirty? Buy this book again. Oh you never know what to expect with With a book what sort of life. It will have When you finish a book you're pretty much thinking then about the next book Elliott has a wonderful line in the four quartets. He says For us there is only the trying the rest is not our business and it it that something that Iraq had better take to heart. Will this always life? It's one of the first memoirs in this huge movement which restored memoir to respect ability. But also although you insist on its factuality it stands at the beginning of what becomes the train of auto fiction people who are writing about their lives as honestly as possible. The question is what about? The structure of the book. Turns it into readable fiction then as I was reading this boy's life what I saw again and again in each chapter was that you'd structured the events around crises and capitulation 's that allowed the book to make its way from beginning to end without seeming like a memoir seeming instead as if life itself the thing we hope is an adventure But this boy's life sees him through his mother's divorce his first and terrifying stepfather his escape from home to a prep school. He is thoroughly unprepared for and in the process allows US SOC- what goes the making of a writer's life pretty good for someone who really was at the start of a career. It was one of those books that I almost didn't choose to right at that. Sounds mystical and and and writers should avoid mystical language about their about their projects in their process but It it always seemed to me a a genre to be avoided the memoir and even though I loved some memoirs Mary McCarthy's memories of the Catholic girlhood is a great favourite of mine. Loves NABOKOV SPEAK MEMORY AND My own brothers Duke of deception. Which in fact was yet another reason. I thought that this was something that I wasn't going to do. I thought go get my family's been covered in this way so it really hadn't because my brother grew up with my father continente way from my experience growing up with my mother and we rarely saw each other but No I was Sort of in some strange way dragged kicking and screaming into the writing of this book but once I got started and and I don't mean by anybody else I mean by inner promptings But once I got started I threw everything else. Aside I found myself caught up in these memories and I suppose like many writers I tend to remember the past in terms of stories. I've told stories about my past. And there's no doubt that without my meaning to the shaping of a memory and two story involves SOM editing that that I'm even unaware of And but these-these. This is what happened this noise life was your entrance into my permanent memory. Not only that it have unforgettable beautiful cover still does. They've kept this cover But somehow or other the care with the writing is something different from the care with a story and sentence by sentence. There's so much betrayal of the care being taken this no show of stuff. It's very carefully done but not artfully done. You're concerned with the pains of this boy's life. Because Boys Life. The magazine that was for scouts was telling about every boy's life and now we were going to hear about this boy's life now too biased. Wolf can you remember at all about talking about this book on Bookworm years ago? Oh I remember talking with you about it I don't remember exactly what we talked about though. Yeah I would I loved was just as I recognized. Jewison Reiner you recognize me as a reader and subsequently you would sign your books to my best reader and I was saw flattered and honored by that and I think I want to talk to you about the relation between writers and readers because over these years between the people who've read the book and the People who've seen the movie that is very loosely based on the book There are people in the world who think they know you? How do you feel about that? I especially feel uncomfortable about it when When they think they know me because of the movie. Okay like I've had people come up to me and say Y I I read your book. And how did you know so much about your mother? Sex Life and I try to be polite but there's nothing in in the book that would lead them to ask that question. That would have been in the movie. Which as you say is very loosely adapted readers people who are readers They understand understate. You know look they understand that. We shared difficult experiences that And that's why they would read a book like this and finish it and so the kinds of conversations I have with people read it. Have been actually very gratifying to me. Often they'll say I had a you know. I had a young boy in my class. Who really seemed to be going off the rails and I gave him your book and it seemed to mean a lot to him. He felt like he had some company in the world. And that didn't have to go badly. And you know if somebody says something like that to me. It just lifts my heart and gives me fuel for the work ahead so I on the whole. I'm I'm very grateful for the way in which people respond to this book. I'M TALKING TO BIAS. Wolf on the thirtieth anniversary of his memoir. This boy's life a book that I had the pleasure to go back and reread. And you know. It's such a detailed book that on my first reading. I didn't realize how haunting it is in Hemingway's Nick Adams stories. We remember phrases. That are unforgettable. You specifically rejected. It seems to me that kind of writing for writing. That's much more detailed and to the point of the places you lived so there's a town up north called concrete. Yes that's where I went to high school. I didn't actually live concrete. Was the metropolis if you will. Where I went to high school. I lived in a little village. About thirty five miles up the Skagit River from concrete And we took the school bus down every morning and back home at night through this wind e dangerous road And and that was but that was the name of the the town where I went to Crete. High-school hundred high school scribes the dust. The cement plant left a pall of dust on everything. Sometimes it would be so thick in the air that they would have to cancel football practice and because they didn't have any concept of people wearing masks or anything but all the cars were all eaten by the lime in the cement dust and I mean it was. It was a company town The Lone Star Cement Company pretty much owned it And now the since the cement plant is closed. I've been back I went back. In fact during the filming of this and and now they errors pristine and they're these beautiful cascade mountains in the background and it's kind of a destination now for fishermen and stuff like that but it was rather squalid company town when I went to high school

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