The author of the genre-defining memoir This Boy's Life, the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novella The Barracks Thief, and short stories acclaimed as modern classics, Tobias Wolff now gives us his first novel. Determined to fit in at his New England prep school, the narrator has learned to mimic the bearing and manners of his adoptive tribe while concealing as much as possible about himself. His final year, however, unravels everything he's achieved, and steers his destiny in directions no one could have predicted. The school's mystique is rooted in Literature, and for many boys this becomes an obsession, editing the review and competing for the attention of visiting writers whose fame helps to perpetuate the tradition. Robert Frost, soon to appear at JFK's inauguration, is far less controversial than the next visitor, Ayn Rand. But the final guest is one whose blessing a young writer would do almost anything to gain. No one writes more astutely than Wolff about the process by which character is formed, and here he illuminates the irresistible power, even the violence, of the self-creative urge.
- National Book Critics Circle Awards
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
- PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
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1 . Awesome Bittersweet Novel!
Posted July 06, 2010 by Kenzie , TorontoThis novel is so good. It's not very long, and I finished it in a day or so, because I couldn't put it down. The narrator is very realistic and as the reader you feel so sympathetic towards him & the novel makes you hurt for him. The ending is bittersweet but the novel is SO good.
August 31, 2004
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Excerpt from Old School by Tobias Wolff
Robert Frost made his visit in November of 1960, just a week after the general election. It tells you something about our school that the prospect of his arrival cooked up more interest than the contest between Nixon and Kennedy, which for most of us was no contest at all. Nixon was a straight arrow and a scold. If heýd been one of us we would have glued his shoes to the floor. Kennedy, thoughýhere was a warrior, an ironist, terse and unhysterical. He had his clothes under control. His wife was a fox. And he read and wrote books, one of which, Why England Slept, was required reading in my honors history seminar. We recognized Kennedy; we could still see in him the boy who would have been a favorite here, roguish and literate, with that almost formal insouciance that both enacted and discounted the fact of his class.
But we wouldnýt have admitted that class played any part in our liking for Kennedy. Ours was not a snobbish school, or so it believed, and we made this as true as we could. Everyone did chores. Scholarship students could declare themselves or not, as they wished; the school itself gave no sign. It was understood that some of the boys might get a leg up from their famous names or great wealth, but if privilege immediately gave them a place, the rest of us liked to think it was a perilous place. You could never advance in it, you could only try not to lose it by talking too much about the debutante parties you went to or the Jaguar you earned by turning sixteen. And meanwhile, absent other distinctions, you were steadily giving ground to a system of honors that valued nothing you hadnýt done for yourself.