Old School

OldSchoolOld School
Tobias Wolff
Vintage, 208 pages, Reprint edition (August 31, 2004)
Kindle Edition $7.99, Amazon Paperback $11.71

I believe I saw this book mentioned in the Sunday New York Times Book Review some months back. If I did it was on the occasion of the book being reprinted. It was originally published in 2004, as I noticed when downloaded my Kindle edition.

No matter. I’m glad I noticed it and I’m glad I bought it. As you likely know, I am an easy sell for novels in an academic setting. Old School fits this description.

The book takes place at a private school on the East Coast. The protagonist is the narrator, a boy there on scholarship. The story follows a handful of students, a faculty member, the dean, and the headmaster. The action begins in 1960.

The plot pivots on one of the school’s traditions, which is to bring a famous author to campus. As part of that tradition, students write a short piece in a style representative of that author. The author chooses one piece, and that student gets a private audience with the author. Authors included Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, and Ernest Hemingway. Robert Frost is portrayed as the affable elderly fellow you might imagine. Ayn Rand is portrayed as the impatient, arrogant, dogmatic woman I would expect. Our protagonist is the winner of the private audience with Hemingway, but it would be too much to give away here what happens after that. You’ll need to read the book.

I will say that Old School somewhat loses its way after the narrator leaves campus, but the plot in those pages does tie up some loose ends.

If you enjoy prep school stories I think you’ll find Old School engaging and well-written. I did.



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