Tobias Wolff (born June 19, 1945 in Birmingham, Alabama) is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. He is best known for his short stories and his memoirs, although he has written two novels (most recently Old School). Wolff is the Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, where he has taught classes in English and creative writing since 1997. He also served as the director of the Creative Writing Program at Stanford from 2000 to 2002. Prior to his current appointment at Stanford, Wolff taught for some time at Syracuse University.
Wolff attended The Hill School and has a First Class Honours degree in English from Hertford College, Oxford (1972) and an M.A. from Stanford University. In 1975, he was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford.
Wolff chronicled his early life in two memoirs. This Boy's Life (1989) concerns itself with the author's early adolescense through high school, while In Pharaoh's Army (1994) records his tour of duty in Vietnam. Wolff's 1984 novella The Barracks Thief won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for 1985. Whether writing fiction or non-, Wolff's writing is united by an exploration of existential terrain. As Wyatt Mason wrote in the London Review of Books, "Typically, his protagonists face an acute moral dilemma, unable to reconcile what they know to be true with what they feel to be true. Duplicity is their great failing, and Wolff's main theme."
Wolff has seen his work find a wider audience though its adaptation into film. This Boy's Life was adapted into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro, and Ellen Barkin.
Tobias Wolff's older brother is the author and University of California, Irvine professor Geoffrey Wolff. Geoffrey wrote a memoir of his own about the boys' father entitled The Duke of Deception. Readers of Wolff's memoirs will be interested to learn that Wolff's mother, having settled in Washington DC, eventually became president of the League of Women Voters.
Tobias Wolff is married and has three children.