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The unnamed narrator is one of several boys whose life revolves around the school's English teachers, those polymaths who seemed to know "exactly what was most worth knowing." For the boys, literature is the center of life, and their obsession culminates in a series of literary competitions during their final year. The prize in each is a private audience with a visiting writer who serves as judge for the entries.
At first, the narrator is entirely taken with the battle. As he fails in his effort to catch Robert Frost's attention and then is unable--due to illness--to even compete for his moment with Ayn Rand, he devotes his energies to a masterpiece for his hero, Hemingway. But, confronting the blank page, the narrator discovers his cowardice, his duplicity. He has withheld himself, he realizes, even from his roommate. He has used his fiction to create a patrician gentility, a mask for his middle class home and his Jewish ancestry. Through the competition for Hemingway, fittingly, all of his illusions about literature dissolve.
Old School is a small, neatly made book, spare and clear in its prose. Each chapter is self-contained and free of anything extraneous to the essentials of plot, mood, and character. Near the end of the novel, the narrator, now a respected writer, imagines that he might one day write about his school days. But he is daunted. "Memory," he says, "is a dream to begin with, and what I had was a dream of memory, not to be put to the test." Old School enters this interplay between dreams and the adult interrogation of memory. Risking sentimentality, Wolff confronts a golden age that never was. From the confrontation, he distills a powerful novel of failed expectations and, ultimately, redemptive self-awareness. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Yes, this book got lots of accolades but honestly, life is too short to waste time on trying to figure just exactly what it is that the author is trying to convey to his readers. Read morePublished 16 days ago by Mary
Not only is this a wonderful memoir, told in a way that keeps you riveted, it surprises with a twist that you don't expect. Read morePublished 3 months ago by VP Watters
Tobias Wolff has labeled OLD SCHOOL (Knopf, 2003) a novel, but it's plainly a continuation of his memoir THIS BOY'S LIFE, at least in some important particulars. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Glenn J. Shea
"Old School" has a certain logic to its message--which seems to be that one doesn't possess the human understanding necessary for becoming a writer until one has experienced a loss... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Peter Baklava
Tobias Wolff's carefully-wrought and eloquent short novel "Old School" (2003) is tinged with self-reflection and irony. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Robin Friedman