Tobias Wolff, ‘Old School’

I’m an old skool girl; I’ve got my 1982 Air Force One high-tops, my Casio F-91W digital watch (that’s right, the one you had when you were eight) and, if my housemates, who have to walk with me to lectures every morning, would let me, I would probably lug a boom box around on my shoulder, instead of my discman. As such, when I heard that Tobias Wolff was publishing a book called Old School I couldn’t wait to read it. I soon found, not to my complete surprise I have to admit, that the novel is far from the meditation on Jam Master Jay and The Sugarhill Gang that the title led me to imagine. Thankfully I was not disappointed however, as this is a beautifully observed work of the calibre you would expect from one of America’s premiere fiction writers.

The novel tells the story of a group of students with literary aspirations at a top American boy’s school. Every term the school is visited by a famous literary figure and the boys compete for the chance to meet them by putting their own work up for judgement. When the news arrives that Ernest Hemingway is coming to the school the boy’s mature civility and suppression of their youthful arrogance comes under huge pressure. A wonderfully written novel I highly recommend.