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Old School

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  9,982 Ratings  ·  1,122 Reviews
The protagonist of Tobias Wolff’s shrewdly—and at times devastatingly—observed first novel is a boy at an elite prep school in 1960. He is an outsider who has learned to mimic the negligent manner of his more privileged classmates. Like many of them, he wants more than anything on earth to become a writer. But to do that he must first learn to tell the truth about himself. ...more
Kindle Edition, 354 pages
Published August 31st 2004 by Vintage (first published 2003)
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Ludizhu Read this book for a class a few years ago and we talked about the implications of the last chapter, which i thought were pretty interesting. We noted…moreRead this book for a class a few years ago and we talked about the implications of the last chapter, which i thought were pretty interesting. We noted how the focus on the Dean was purposeful since the narrator really doesn't seem to know his identity outside of the school. He's great at emulating others, but of course that's all he has done and as a result he has no faith in himself. It was less of an issue for him when he was at school because everyone there was a bit of a poser, and he stood near the top, but without that structure, he felt like a nobody. To answer your question though, yeah I do feel like it was anticlimactic. Hope you find this as interesting as I did. (less)
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Orsodimondo
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana
VOGLIA DI RICOMINCIARE
Romanzo consigliato da un amico scrittore, che parla molto di scrittori e scrittura.
Parla della vita attraverso la scrittura di letteratura, vuoi poesia o racconto.
Per capire quanto è importante l’aspetto dello scrivere cito la visione ricorrente del protagonista, autentico incubo:
Essere invitato a una festa con moltissimi scrittori e scoprire che, dopo così tanti anni di lavoro, non avevo un posto a tavola.

Mi ha riportato indietro a quel tempo che si suole definire ‘anni
...more
Jola
What a book! Despite the tranquil title, it's been an engrossing emotional roller coaster, which made me feel dizzy.

The setting of 'Old School' (2003) by Tobias Wolff is an elite boarding school in the United States in 1960–61. The unnamed narrator is one of the students, 'book-drunk boys', obsessed with literature and creative writing: 'one could not live in a world without stories'. The school regularly organizes a competition and the prize is a private audience with a notorious author. The d
...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Old School, Tobias Jonathan Ansell Wolff
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: هجدهم نوامبر سال 2011 میلادی
عنوان: مدرسه قدیم ؛ نویسنده: توبیاس وولف؛ مترجم: منیر شاخساری؛ تهران، چشمه، 1389؛ در 226 ص؛ شابک: 9789643628413؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی قرن 21 م
داستانی خواندنی درباره ی زندگی در مدرسه ای در اوایل دهه ی شصت قرن بیستم میلادی، هرچند مدرسه، از مدارس ممتاز است، و در ایالت نیوانگلند امریکاست؛ اما توبیاس وولف انگار میکنم دبیرستان فیوضات تبریزم را جلوی دوربین خیالم آویخته باشند، هرچند نمیدانم چرا ریاضی
...more
Ellen
Dec 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone

Want to read something funny and literate? Read this memoir.

There are few books that provide this much hilarity, wisdom and grace.

Old School, though categorized as a novel, is a thinly veiled memoir of Tobias Wolff’s own experience as a scholarship boy in an elite prep school. The action largely centers on the boys’ writing competitions. Three times a year, a famous author would visit the school and choose one boy’s writing as the best. As a reward, that boy earned a private audience with the au
...more
Eh?Eh!
Meredith recommends reading This Boy's Life or In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War, parts 1 and 2 of this author's memoirs, instead of this fiction novel if you've never read Hemingway or Rand. That said, I've never read Hemingway or Rand but I've heard of their reputations, and really enjoyed this.


Does anyone remember getting a flier in high school saying you've been so successful that you're chosen to be listed in the Who's Who In American High Schools? I was too naive to recognize a s
...more
Steve
Feb 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine yourself as a young writer at a prestigious boarding school. A prominent member of the faculty has just read your submission for a contest. He is genuinely excited for you. “A marvelous story! Pure magic. No—no—not magic. Alchemy. The dross of self-consciousness transformed into the gold of self-knowledge.” Pretty heady stuff, isn’t it? Old School’s protagonist was at an experiential high point when he heard that one. The truth is there are moments within the book where you could congrat ...more
Francisco
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I imagined as I was reading this book what a contemporary YA literary agent or editor would say upon receiving Tobias Wolff's story of a young man's experience in a New England preparatory school (one of those that can claim a U.S. president as an alumni but is way too classy to ever mention this fact outright). I see my imaginary literary agent, my imaginary editor, asking where's the conflict, the plot twists, the romance, the Big Ideas, the high stakes? And it saddens me to think that today t ...more
Meredith Holley
Jul 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: English majors
Recommended to Meredith by: The New Yorker
A review dedicated to and inspired by my friend Eh!, who reads things backwards.

This book is way literary meta. It’s so meta that there are prereq reading requirements for an optimal experience. Everyone knows Robert Frost, right? So, I’m not putting him on the list. But, I require you to read Atlas Shrugged, The Sun Also Rises, and (if you liked The Sun Also Rises, but not if you hated it) A Farewell to Arms before you read Old School. If you don’t care for Hemingway, you’ll probably not care f
...more
Michael


So, I want to live in this book. This is a bittersweet book about myth...the myth of being innocent, and the myth of what it's like going to a private school. . . a private, cloistered high school. As a big-time literature nerd aficionado, the school in this novel is every bit as magical as Hogwarts: visits from writers like Hemingway, Ayn Rand, Robert Frost, writing contests to actually get to hang out with them...knowing they'd actually read something you'd WRITTEN.

You know, THIS kind of scho
...more
Becca Becca
Oct 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Literary folks, book lovers, nostalgic blokes
Recommended to Becca by: Rasputin
Shelves: favorites
Hot damn. I do realize this was on my 'currently-reading' shelf for one long stretch of time, but I must confess, I had only done a cursory read of a few pages.

Well, last night, I visited the land of IKEA (dreadful place that I rarely venture to) and bought myself a reading lamp. Wanting to try out my latest device, I picked up this book and began to read. This was at Midnight (I'm a bit of a night owl). Well, I got so engrossed in this book that I read the entire thing! Finished around 4 in the
...more
Hana
Sep 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-fic, 2016-reads
I picked this one up at the library on a whim and was hooked with the first chapter. It's a short, and I gather semi-autobiographical, novel about an elite boys prep school somewhere in New England. The protagonist is a scholarship boy from who fits in with his peers mostly by allowing people to think he's something that he isn't. The lies are more in omission, rather than commission. But gradually he lives the lies until they become him.

This is also a book about books--poetry, novels, writing
...more
Donna Kirk
Oct 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At Donald Hall's house, he talked quite a bit about formalism and style in literary traditions. He told me that a person can't really move into the contemporary unless they have read pre-1800's writing and beyond. In Charles Simic's classes, he taught a more delicate, elegant modern aesthetic. his approach was more arachnid, mysterious, dark and removed. his writing is about the hidden and therefore, he admires any approach used to unleash what one can usually only whisper about. while Billy Col ...more
Stef Smulders
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-stars
At first this seems to be 'just' a straightforward, well-written and enjoyable memoir but then you notice that the author has woven in several themes and motifs, in very subtle way. Truth, honesty, loyalty, self knowledge are touched upon in each of the chapters as the story itself continues. There is the tension about the narrators Jewishness, and class difference that stirrs underneath the surface. The novel is about writing and writers as well, discussing and portraying Ayn Rand, Hemingway, F ...more
Clif Hostetler
May 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
OLD SCHOOL is written in the form of a fictionalized memoir of a student at an elite, circa 1960s, prep school full of "book-drunk" boys. Through a series of student writing competitions to win the prize of a private audience with a well know author, the reader of this book is treated to a profile of Carl Sandburg, Ayn Rand, and Earnest Hemingway. Along the way we are taught a lesson in how ambition disguised as passion for writing can lead to unfortunate outcomes. There is a hilarious bit of hu ...more
Kristen
Apr 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A strong 4.5 only because the ending lost some momentum for me (which may have been intentional since for the first 2/3 of the book, the narrator is reflecting back on his last year of prep school which ends rather suddenly). Definitely a book lovers book...an homage to American literature, to the teachers who are passionate about it and to the early 60s, before the deaths of JFK and Ernest Hemingway and the general upheaval later in the decade. Wolff's writing pulls you right into the narrator' ...more
Erin Foster
Mar 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the prodigal paragraph

this book had one of the best final paragraphs i've ever read. ever since i finished the book a few months ago, i am oftentimes reminded of it:

"Arch stopped and looked down the garden to where the headmaster stood by the drinks table with another master. The headmaster said, Late for his own funeral! and everyone laughed, then he put his glass down and came toward Arch with both hands outstretched. Though the headmaster was the younger man, and much shorter, and though Arch
...more
Monica
Mar 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Monica by: Rory
Shelves: 2009, favorites
So this was beautifully written and set in my absolute favorite sort of boarding school setting, but what I REALLY loved about it was Wolff's ability to connect the experience of being a young reader. The relationships that the boys in the book have with literature makes me feel so nostalgic for the first time I read Salinger or Vonnegut and I just fell totally, utterly in love with an author.

So short and affecting and totally consuming.
Eric
Aug 16, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ficciones
Star rating means little - this cut real deep.
Kathy
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Remarkable book...elite school for young men who compete for chance to have private conference with famous authors among other things. For lovers of literature.
Published 2003; Setting US prep school in 1960's; Literature "Greats" include Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, Ayn Rand; President Kennedy's era and aura and the very real and beautifully portrayed "growing-up angst" experienced by the school's population as well as their teachers.

This is my first book by this author although I recently re
...more
Kate
Oct 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cannonball-read
I’m a public school kid. I spent my elementary years in an inner city school where the teachers manually cranked out math assignments from the old mimeograph and our school books were donated by richer school districts. From sixth until twelfth grade, I moved into one of those richer school districts and enjoyed the novelty of a Xerox, but watched as our 30 year old natatorium began to collapse in on itself. I finished off my educational career at a state university, where funding was ample enou ...more
Simon A. Smith
WOW... this is a damn fine book. Some amazing writing here... In fact, I think the best way to prove to you folks that this Wolff guy is "a beast," as the kids say these days, is to quote some passages right here.

"The heat from the fire brought a flush to her face and made her perfume thicker, headier. She turned to Mr. Rice, an English master and a southerner himself, who was tapping his ashes from his pipe into the fireplace. Do you think she'll come tonight? she asked."

"Patty was his second w
...more
Fred
Aug 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i read this book on the advice of nick hornby after reading a collection of articles he wrote for the mcsweeney's magazine "the believer" which had been compiled into book form. i pretty much hated the nick hornby articles (for their cutesy, self-satisfied tone, i think, and also for the way he kept faux-dissing the believer as an overly fey literary mag and therefore underscoring himself as a salt-of-the-earth regular type of guy; basically the whole book is packed with obvious false modesty an ...more
Edan
Jan 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this novel very much, perhaps most of all because it reminded me of my own reading experiences in high school--how falling in love with Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Tom Robbins, Sandra Cisneros, and Flaubert shaped my sense of self--or my desire to have a specific kind of self. And just like Wolff's narrator, I had a brief love affair with Ayn Rand's Fountainhead, which ended when I tried to read Atlas Shrugged.
It's a simple novel that does something bold (yet still subtle--how can that
...more
Amy Kitchell-Leighty
Old School reads like a memoir and although the fictional prep school set in the 1960s is nameless, the photo on the front cover was taken of Hill School, where, coincidently Wolff was a student. No matter, I think this was a story of finding oneself and gaining insight into others.

It’s written in simplistic style and I loved how Wolff interposed authors throughout the novel such as Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, and Ernest Hemingway. He even gave a nod to the author James Jones (From Here to Eternity
...more
Blixen
Un romanzo poco convincete, nonostante la trama mi avesse incuriosita. In questa storia il tema portante si perde, si ritrova e si perde nuovamente. Alla fatica del comprendere dove lo scrittore voglia condurre il lettore, si associa anche una dose di noia dovuta all'eccesso di informazioni e dettagli inutili su tanti personaggi che sarebbero tutti molto interessanti, ma vengono abbandonati lungo la storia, senza un perché. Wolff non mi ha comunque delusa del tutto, penso che leggerò altro, alcu ...more
Joshua
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It's a bit pretentious, there's a bit of wish fulfillment on the part of the author, and it's a bit obvious at times, but the novel itself is astounding. I'm either blinded by my past as an attendee of an all male school, or this book really is the beautifully woven, wonderfully told exploration into the mind of an author that I see it as. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle. Either way, highly recommended.
Darrell Reimer
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On Friday Big Jeff made it known that if his cousin got kicked out for cutting next afternoon's chapel, he was leaving with him. This was a curious and agreeable twist, Big Jeff spanieling after his cousin with tongue out, barking at phantoms as he followed him into martyrdom. It somehow put the whole thing in a farcical light, as Purcell must have understood, because he was furious.

The above passage comes late in Tobias Wolff's Old School. At this point the narrator and his other schoolmates ar
...more
Sara Mazzoni
Apr 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tobias Wolff cala il lettore nell’universo tipicamente americano delle prep-school (e non dei college, come erroneamente riportato in quarta di copertina), ossia i licei-collegio dove gli adolescenti vengono preparati all’università. L’ambientazione si presta duttilmente a un romanzo di formazione obliquo, che è soprattutto una riflessione sulla letteratura (rigorosamente americana) e sullo scrivere. Il manifesto di Wolff è semplice: l’onestà intellettuale è il primo strumento che lo scrittore d ...more
Kirk
Jan 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First things first: this is not a movie tie-in. No earmuffs, No "Hank the Tank," no Andy Dick seminars. It is, rather, a nostalgic coming-of-age novel set in the early 60s with a neat conceit: each year at the narrator's exclusive prep school, a literary master visits campus, igniting fierce competition among the preps for the golden opportunity to have their writing evaluated and, just maybe, be discovered. The three luminaries here are Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, and Ernest Hemingway. In the hands ...more
M
Nov 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This author falls under the humbling yet appreciated category of "Why Do I Even Bother?" Wolff's mastership is evident from page one - a sympathetic yet flawed and nameless protagonist is on scholarship in a prep school (this read a bit like a male version of Prep at times) and wants desperately to be counted among the great writers and succumbs to temptation to get there - I loved, loved loved this book. It was beautifully written and moving, and at times hysterically funny (though in a literar ...more
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Tobias Jonathan Ansell Wolff is a writer of fiction and nonfiction.

He is best known for his short stories and his memoirs, although he has written two novels.

Wolff is the Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, where he has taught classes in English and creative writing since 1997. He also served as the director of the Creative Writ
...more
“a true piece of writing is a dangerous thing. It can change your life.” 50 likes
“The beauty of a fragment is that it still supports the hope of brilliant completeness.” 33 likes
More quotes…