Ashley's Reviews > Old School

Old School by Tobias Wolff
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Oct 29, 2009

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Read in October, 2009

This was a damn good book. I found it lying around and picked it up. It is a first person account (perhaps based on Wolff's own experience) of a boy attending an east coast prep school in 1962.

On a full scholarship and from Seattle, and now he lives among wealthy and privileged children of east coast families. Most of the boys are striving to become prolific writers, and so he is surrounded by his own and his classmate's amateur poetry and literary works. They are all striving to cultivate their writing chops and to have their pieces selected for inclusion in the literary quarterly produced by the school.

Notable writers such as Ayn Rand (portrayed quite unlikably), visit this school, which is renowned as a hotbed of young literary scholarship. The author

Very beatnick-esque in the telling, the narrator recounts his coming of age within this environment of tradition and rigidity, and how he finds outlets for his rebellion, smoking cigarettes,and even plagiarism
(resulting in his expulsion).

And although that takes place almost at the very end of the book, he does not return home as is expected, but moves to New York where he endeavors to further realize himself. Cashing in the remainder of his train pass in exchange for a hotel room and taking a bottom of the barrel job. All the while he continues to pursue his literary interests.

A well conceived tale of writer as wayfaring artist in search of a muse and continuously at odds with the system. I enjoyed the Kerouac-ian romanticism of this novel, which captures so well the cultivation of an individual's mind as he pursues his innate inclination to become a writer.
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