Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mini book review: "Old School"

In between baseball books, I decided to take a look at the novel featured in this year's 'Big Read.' This year, the city-wide book club features "Old School," by Tobias Wolff.

I have to say I was a little skeptical going in. Former "Big Read" books included works by Steinbeck and Hemingway. I had never heard of Tobias Wolff, and I didn't understand why his novel would be placed in this company.

I understand now. "Old School" is one hell of a great read.

"Old School" is about a boy in an upstate New York boarding school in the 1960s. The school has a strong focus on producing great writers, and the students compete for face-to-face meetings with visiting writers like Robert Frost, Ayn Rand and the aforementioned Ernest Hemingway.

I don't want to give away too much, but you can probably imagine those stakes would lead the young writers toward desperate measures.

"Old School is a very short novel at 195 pages. Too short, in fact, and I don't say that about many novels. In truth, most novels (even these fine baseball books I'm reading) could stand to be about a third shorter - how many times do you get bogged down by a novel halfway through? - but that's not the case with "Old School." I didn't want the book to end. I wanted another hundred pages.

Read this book, and participate in the "Big Read" events taking place all across the city. Tobias Wolff is going to be in town in May as well.

--Matt Kelsey

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