In the Garden of the North American Martyrs: A collection of short stories

by Tobias Wolff

Paper Book, 1981





New York, N.Y. : Ecco Press, 1981.


Tobias Wolff's masterful short-story about one woman's quiet revenge on the pomposity and arrogance of academia Meticulous, funny, eccentric-Mary has always been mindful of the complex role she plays as a professor of history. Her lectures are carefully written out beforehand; her departmental loyalties ambiguous. She is so careful, in fact, that she began to see herself as flat, dull, and lifeless. The closing of Brandon College, the institution she'd spent more than fifteen years at, changes everything. Forced to find another position, Mary finds herself at an experimental college in rainy Oregon. Sickly and unhappy, Mary feels as if she's dying-until a letter from an old colleague holds promises of a bright future. Louise works for a prestigious school in upstate New York and wants to help her secure a position there. Excited, Mary flies across the country for an interview. But things aren't as they seem, and Mary, disenchanted with Louise's vanity and the futility of the university, for once, throws caution to the wind.… (more)

Media reviews

In this, his first book, Tobias Wolff avoids the emotional and stylistic monotone that constricts so many collections of contemporary short stories. His range, sometimes within the same story, extends from fastidious realism to the grotesque and the lyrical. In these 12 stories, Wolff's characters include a teen-age boy who becomes a compulsive liar on the day his father dies, an elderly couple who try to maintain their dignity despite the travesties of a golden anniversary love cruise, and an obese man whose surreptitious eating makes him feel as duplicitous as a spy. He allows these characters scenes of flamboyant madness as well as quiet desperation, moments of slap-happiness as well as muted contentment.


Local notes

inscribed by the author


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