Sunday, December 16, 2007

Book Review: "Old School" by Tobias Wolff

"Old School" is set in a mid-century New England boys prep school, where the young protagonist encounters Rand, among other things. It depicts Rand's ability to sexually mesmerize the young, as the protagonist and his girlfriend share Rand-induced fantasies with each other. Rand and her gang visit the school to judge an essay competition, where Wolff recreates the behavior of the Objectivist cult in public down to a T. They strut, stomp, heckle and blow smoke into their hosts' faces through the day. Rand is horrified when she learns that her top pick, a story about beefy steers fighting the tyranny of collectivist farmers to board a spaceship and fly off to cow paradise, was really an exhortation to veganism.

It should be noted that Rand isn't the main focus of this book, although probably the most interesting part. The parts about teenage boys' sexual discovery titillated me, and the parts about Rand were funny. But the rest of the book was about when they grew older and disenchanted and realized that everyone is living a lie (or something like that), and that got boring.


Michael Prescott said...

That sounds pretty amusing, and right on target.

Have you read Two Girls, Fat and Thin, by Mary Gaitskill? Some penetrating jabs at Objectivism in there.

I also recommend the nonfiction book Therapist, by Ellen Plasil. It recounts Plasil's experiences in the decidedly cultlike atmosphere of late 1960s-early 1970s New York City Objectivism. At the end, Plasil escapes the company of Objectivists to find her place among "normal people," as she puts it. Priceless!

Meg's Marginalia said...

I flipped through Two Girls Fat and Thin. Some of it was interesting, but I didn't actually finish it. Other than the parts about Objectivism, the rest was nothing special (and heavy on incest).

I want to read Therapist but haven't got my hands on it.. but amazon has it for 0.35 + shipping...