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 centre 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 realises, 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.
Near the end of the novel, the narrator 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, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Tobias Wolff's carefully-wrought and eloquently written short novel "Old School" (2003) is tinged with self-reflection and irony beneath its apparently simple story. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Robin Friedman
It came on time in the condition described. An interesting book by an outstanding writerPublished 8 months ago by Mr. Colin Barber
This is a book about writing and I wonder how far its interest reaches beyond literary graduates, particularly specialists in modern American Literature. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Bluecashmere.
Well worth a read. Very atmospheric, great characterization and a convincing plot - I was really not expecting the final twist. Also the denouement was well done, very ironic. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Miketang
Wolff was an associate of Raymond Carver, another of my favourite authors. This is one of those books where you begin reading and quickly relax in the sense that you know you are... Read morePublished 16 months ago by J Clark
Never heard back either way - so I guess he was not very impressed with it - but who knows...Published 18 months ago by Image
This story follows a boy at a prestigious American school and his quest to fit in with the high brow literature and writers clique. Read morePublished on 19 Jun. 2013 by Mrs. Fiona Wilton
Tobias Wolff has for some time been one of my favourite contemporary writers, so I was looking forward to this, his first attempt at writing a bigger fictional story. Read morePublished on 13 May 2012 by Philip S. Walker
Superficially, Old School by Tobias Wolff suggests the gentility of an adolescent memoir. The paroxysms of growing up will be heartfelt, but from the distance of adulthood they... Read morePublished on 8 Jan. 2012 by Philip Spires