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Old School (Vintage Contemporaries) (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

For the boys in Tobias Wolff's Old School, winning the school writing contest also wins them a one-on-one meeting with an acclaimed visiting author. Put another way: if you've ever wondered what Robert Frost or Ayn Rand(!) would sound like filtered through the precise, generous language that's made Wolff one of our all-time great short-story writers, this is the book for you. Though Old School is also the book for you if you've ever felt like an outsider, or acted shamefully, or struggled to be honest with yourself. If you have ever, that is, had difficulty being a person. In Wolff's hands, even our most foolish or harmful decisions carry with them the possibility of forgiveness, the reminder that we can be better next time, if only we choose to. 

— From Sam


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.

The agency of revelation is the school literary contest, whose winner will be awarded an audience with the most legendary writer of his time. As the fever of competition infects the boy and his classmates, fraying alliances, exposing weaknesses, Old School explores the ensuing deceptions and betrayals with an unblinking eye and a bottomless store of empathy. The result is further evidence that Wolff is an authentic American master.

About the Author

Tobias Wolff lives in Northern California and teaches at Stanford University. He has received the Rea Award for excellence in the short story, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the PEN/Faulkner Award.

Praise For…

"Ingenious. . . . A tour de force. . . . Achieves a real profundity. "—The Boston Globe

A sharply drawn, acutely felt novel of moral inquiry. . . . Wolff has put his readers in the landscape tracked across by writers as different as J. M. Coetzee, Philip Roth, and, going back, Conrad and Hawthorne." —The Washington Post Book World

"The kind of deceptively quiet novel that deserves a second, slow reading. An homage to the power of story to move, to awaken and even to transform." —The Plain Dealer

"Gentle, reserved, graceful. . . . Wolff again proves himself to be a writer of the highest order: part storyteller, part philosopher, someone deeply engaged in asking hard questions." —Los Angeles Times
Product Details
ISBN: 9780375701498
ISBN-10: 0375701494
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: August 31st, 2004
Pages: 208
Language: English
Series: Vintage Contemporaries