We gave it an A-
This slender, exquisitely written new novel marries the virtues of the two genres for which Wolff has become famous: ”Old School” boasts both the economy and intensity of a great short story and the strong point of view of a memoir. An unnamed narrator recalls, in middle age, his book-drunk adolescence at an all-boys prep school where, in 1960, a visit from a feisty old Robert Frost caused a bigger sensation than the election of John F. Kennedy. Each year the school invited three celebrated writers to speak, and students competed fiercely for a solo audience with the revered guest. Some of this is extremely funny, like the narrator’s purchase of Ayn Rand’s ”Fountainhead” ”in smirky spirit”; his subsequent, unexpected infatuation with her dreadful, alluring work; and his sharp disillusionment when she turns out to be both unattractive and unpleasant. But there’s nothing comical about the protagonist’s catastrophic attempt to win the competition to meet Hemingway. In this stylistically restrained but emotionally devastating book, every sentence is nailed down with rare and terrific precision.