Tobias Wolff gave a fiction reading at UT tonight. He read from Old School, In Pharaoh’s Army, and a short story from a new collection, Our Story Begins, called “Her Dog,” in which a man has a conversation with his dead wife’s dog. I could not BELIEVE he read such a story, because Meg has been BEGGING me for a dog, and being the heartless bastard I am, I have refused her on logical grounds (they’re expensive, someone has to feed them, walk them, take care of them when you want to leave town, blah blah blah), the same positions the man in the story took with his wife, before she got a dog anyways, and he then declared the dog to be HER dog, and he would have nothing to do with caring for it, and then she dies, and then he’s stuck with this dog.
In other words, it was a story about a guilty man with his dead wife’s dog—read to a guilty man with a wife with no dog.
In other words, it hit close to home.
A good reading, only rivaled by the wonderful picnic dinner Meg fixed us to eat beforehand. Nice to finally get to see/hear him read, because he’s one of my favorite writers, and I’ve met a few of his students (Dan Chaon, George Saunders, Tom Perrotta), but never the man himself.
Afterwards, Meg came up with a new system for Q & A sessions: you submit questions on index cards before the reading, and then the writer pulls the questions out of a hat, reads them off, and answers them. This takes all the ego out of question-asking—you don’t get anyone trying to show off or flatter the writer, and people who might not feel comfortable asking a question in front of a live audience get a chance, too.
Crappy shot from my camera phone: