Author Tobias Wolff to Present The Big Read Keynote in Massillon

News Release:  Author Tobias Wolff to Present The Big Read Keynote

Tobias Wolff, author of the novel Old School, this year’s book selection for The Big Read, will speak at the Lincoln Theatre (156 Lincoln Way East in downtown Massillon) on Thursday, May 21. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the program will begin at 7:00 p.m. The keynote will be presented by the Massillon Museum and sponsored by Kent State University at Stark. Admission will be free and reservations will not be required.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to bring Tobias Wolff to speak here when so many of us have read his book,” said Massillon Museum Education and Outreach Coordinator Heather Haden, who has orchestrated The Big Read for the Museum. “This is the first time we have chosen a book by a living author. It will surely be an enriching and inspiring experience for our community.”

Akron author David Giffels will introduce Wolff for the keynote. Giffels, assistant professor of English at the University of Akron, has written The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt and All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House. 

About the Speaker

Born in Alabama in 1945, Tobias Wolff traveled the country with his peripatetic mother, finally settling in Washington State, where he grew up. As a scholarship student, he attended the Hill School in Pennsylvania until he was expelled for repeated failures in mathematics in his final year, whereupon he joined the Army. He spent four years as a paratrooper, including a tour in Vietnam. Following his discharge he attended Oxford University in England, where he received a First Class Honors degree in English in 1972. Returning to the United States, he worked as a reporter, a night watchman, a waiter and a high school teacher before receiving a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford University in 1975. Wolff is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is currently Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Professor in the Humanities at Stanford (California), where he lives with his wife Catherine.

Tobias Wolff’s books include the memoirs This Boy’s Life and In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of the Lost War; the short novel The Barracks Thief; the novel Old School; and four collections of short stories—In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, Back in the World, The Night in Question, and, most recently, Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories. He has also edited several anthologies, among them Best American Short Stories 1994, A Doctor’s Visit: The Short Stories of Anton Chekhov, and The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories. His work is translated widely and has received numerous awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award, The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, both the PEN/Malamud and the Rea Award for Excellence in the Short Story, the Story Prize, and the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. 

About the Book

Free copies of Old School are available at the Massillon Museum, Massillon Public Library, Massillon Recreation Center, and Exploration Gateway.  In the book, the narrator is intimidated by his prep school’s class snobbery as he finds his niche in English classes and on the staff of the literary magazine. He focuses on a school tradition—a writing competition to meet individually with a famous visiting writer—but he struggles to craft a worthy submission. He finally plagiarizes a story from another school’s literary magazine, earning high praise until his deception is discovered. When he is expelled and his acceptance to Columbia University is withdrawn, he drifts for a few years before enlisting in the army.

About The Big Read

The Big Read, the largest federal literature program since the W.P.A., is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the program is managed by Arts Midwest. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment.    

Massillon is one of only 77 communities nationally to secure the program for the 2014–2015 grant cycle. It is the only Ohio institution to receive a share of the $1,012,500 funding for this grant cycle.

The Museum will distribute 1,500 free copies of Old School, along with bookmarks, to local schools, organizations, and individuals.  The Museum has been selected to participate in The Big Read since the second year of the national program.  During the first seven seasons of The Big Read in Western Stark County, the Museum distributed more than 24,000 free books (The Call of the Wild, The Age of Innocence, The Shawl, Tom Sawyer, The Short Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Fahrenheit 451).

Local organizations and individuals collaborating on The Big Read with the Massillon Museum include:  the Massillon Public Library; Stark Parks; Kent State University and Kent State University at Stark; Massillon/North Canton Elks #2029; Rotary Club of Massillon; the Massillon Area Chamber of Commerce; Washington High School Drama Department; the Stark County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau; and many community volunteers. 

For more information, call the Museum at 330-833-4061 or visit


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