Prufrock's Page

Friday, June 17, 2005

Crying Wolff

One came across this charming article on Tobias Wolff, author of many estimable short stories as well as This Boy's Life and, most recently, Old School.

Wolff details a rigorous, disciplined writing routine: he locks himself in the basement of the library at Stanford University, where he teaches three classes a year, in a room with no windows, no phone, no photos on the wall. Lots of pacing. Oh, and he's getting his Net connection switched off: The Internet, he says mock-seriously, "is the new version of a writer's endless pencil sharpening."

Other advice: "He composes overlong first drafts, then combs what he has written, looking for patterns, the spine he can build his book around. Study the writers you love, he counsels, because imitation is essential to becoming a writer. Discipline, too, of course. And remember, don't be too hard on yourself, not yet."

The Chekov-inspired trio of Wolff, Raymond Carver and Richard Ford were, of course, among the luminaries of American fiction in the Eighties. If you can get hold of it, Wolff's 'Good Raymond' (first published in The New Yorker and reissued by Harvill) is a touching memoir that's worth reading.


  • I enjoyed your post. I finished reading Old School this weekend, and liked it a lot. It's my favourite kind of book--clever and compact. Naturally, now I'm waiting for the film version ...:)

    By Blogger Sonia Faleiro, at 7:39 PM  

  • As it turns out, there's a 2003 film entitled 'Old School'....but it's not based on Wolff's book. The poster line says: "All the fun of college. None of the education". :)

    By Blogger PrufrockTwo, at 8:42 AM  

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