Old School (novel)

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Old School
Old School cover.jpg
Cover of Old School
Author Tobias Wolff
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Vintage Books
Publication date
November 4, 2003
Pages 195 p.

Old School is a novel by Tobias Wolff. It was first published on November 4, 2003, after three portions of the novel had appeared in The New Yorker as short stories.


The book is narrated by a school senior ("sixth former" in prep-school vernacular) at an (unnamed) elite boarding school in the northeastern United States in 1960–61. It is possible to infer Pennsylvania's The Hill School, which Wolff attended, at least partially inspired the setting for the novel. Further evidence of this can also be inferred from the fact that Hill's dining hall is the photograph depicted on the novel's cover. The narrator aspires to be a writer, and the school he attends is an embodiment of a certain kind of academic fantasy, where non-English teachers (teachers are "masters" here) "floated at the fringe of [the English masters'] circle, as if warming themselves at a fire", and literature is still believed to hold the key to the soul. Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, and Ernest Hemingway, with each of whom the narrator crosses paths, appear in the story, dispensing wisdom, pseudo-wisdom, vitriol. These literary appearances amount to creative satires of these authors, especially Ayn Rand.


Amazon.com contains over 180 reviews and readers giving it four of five stars. This book was a finalist for the Pen Faulkner award. One critic said that "the writing is so fine that you have to read it twice, a second time to admire the carefully crafted prose", as stated on the back of the novel.


  • Wolff, Tobias (2003). Old School. New York: Knopf.