Tuesday, November 25, 2003

I'm reading Old School, Tobias Wolff's first novel and am in love with his writing. Although a New York Times critic declared that he couldn't tell the difference between the prose of Wolff's memoirs and that of this novel; I, who have never read Wolff before, find his work elegant. Like Hemingway, the idol of the book's teenaged prepschool narrator, Wolff's every word counts and is full of meaning.

Set in a New England boys' prep school in the early 1960s, the novel revolves around the school's annual literary competition, the top honor being the opportunity to sit for an hour with a celebrated writer. The narrator loses out on his chance to talk with Robert Frost and Ayn Rand, but hopes against hope that in his third year he will meet his idol Hemingway.

Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead sets him all on fire. "I was discovering the force of my will. To read The Fountainhead was to feel this caged power, straining like a dammed-up river to break loose and crush every impediment to its free running. I understood that nothing stood between me and my greatest desires--nothing between me and greatness itself--but the temptation to doubt my will and bow to counsels of moderation, expedience, and conventional morality, and shrink into the long, slow death of respectability...."

The dialogues between the students and each author are incredibly funny, especially the conversation with Rand. Not to be missed. I am just about to read the Hemingway section, so I'll have to have an update on that later. By the way, by following the New York Times link, you'll find the book's first chapter.


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