IN THE GARDEN OF THE NORTH AMERICAN MARTYRS<i> by Tobias Wolf (Ecco Press: $8.95) </i>
Although many of the stories in this anthology are set in the Pacific Northwest, Tobias Wolff’s talent transcends regional boundaries. In crisp, hard-edged prose, he delineates bleak miniature worlds that encompass the disillusionment of contemporary life.
The reader watches with impotent alarm as a botched practical joke releases the hatred and fear needed to commit murder in “Hunters in the Snow.” In the title story, the smug hypocrisy of a faculty search committee forces a shy professor to speak the truth in her lecture. Citing the example of the Iroquois, she admonishes her dumbfounded students to “Be kind. Do justice. Walk humbly.” On a lighter note, in “The Liar,” a young man discovers that falsehood can become so gloriously entertaining that it appears more vivid than the truth. An exceptional collection of short fiction.