Books: Spirits of '76...BACK IN THE WORLD

BACK IN THE WORLD

Some say that the American short story is back in style because television has reduced our attention spans. Others argue that the return of the literary sprint began as a marketing strategy: publishers could reissue old collections by brand name writers much as art museums mount retrospectives. Perhaps, but there may be a simpler explanation. The short story does what many so-called serious new novels rarely do: it tells a story.

In his latest collection, Tobias Wolff tells ten of them, superbly. Tales of a priest, a real estate broker, a shoplifter, Viet Nam veterans, California coke heads, and even a...

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