Tobias Wolff: The Art of the Story
This Week on Beyond the Page: The Best of the Sun Valley Writers‘ Conference
Welcome to Beyond the Page: The Best of the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference. Over the past 25 years, SVWC has become the gold standard of American literary festivals, bringing together contemporary writing’s brightest stars for their view of the world through a literary lens. Every month, Beyond the Page curates and distills the best talks from the past quarter century at the Writers’ Conference, giving you a front row seat on the kind of knowledge, inspiration, laughter, and meaning that Sun Valley is known for.
In this episode of Beyond the Page, John Burnham Schwartz speaks with author Tobias Wolff, renowned for his classic memoirs and short stories, for an intimate, wide-ranging conversation about life, literature, craft, and the never- ending mysteries and revelations that come from spending one’s time inhabiting the minds of others.
From the interview:
Tobias Wolff: We come to know ourselves and even define ourselves by the stories that we tell about ourselves that we decide is our story. That’s a lifelong process. When you think of what happens when you tell a story about yourself, we live in this constant current of experience. We can’t make all of it mean anything, so we have to find or impose some pattern on it to make sense of it. So we are all storytellers in that way.
Every time a kid comes home from school and starts telling you about his unfair victimization by his teacher, he’s telling a story. You also know as his parent that he’s leaving a lot out. We do that. I mean, the very process of making a story means carving out and leaving out all kinds of things, editing our experience. So a story always gives us a partial sense of reality, but the only way we can have any sense of reality is to give our experience form, and different people within the story see it in very different ways.
Tobias Wolff has written about his life in the acclaimed This Boy’s Life and in In Pharoah’s Army. Born in Alabama, he was raised in Salt Lake City and in the mountains above Seattle. He briefly attended prep school in Pennsylvania, then joined the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He thereafter took degrees at Oxford and Stanford. Since 1980 he has taught literature and writing at Syracuse University.