Friday, March 28, 2008

Now 'N' Later Coveting...

On prep schools, superstar English teachers, groupies, Michiko Kakutani, David Sedaris, flames, and impatience:

For some reason a few years ago I bought and read Tobias Wolff's short novel OLD SCHOOL. I'd never heard of him - or, more likely, I might have, and simply never paid much attention - nor had I heard of his book. But there was something about the New England prep school scholarship kid which caught my attention, and, as it happens with so many of the books I read, on a whim I picked it up, read it, and absolutely loved it.

OLD SCHOOL is, among other things, a celebration of literature and the potential momentous effect it can have on our lives. In the prep school of Wolff's creation, the English teachers are superstars; according the narrator they were the only ones who knew "exactly what was most worth knowing." And as superstars often do, the English teachers have a core of student groupies, which includes the narrator. In addition to competing for the English teachers' attention, the students compete in annual writing contests for the chance at a private meeting with heavy-weight writers such as Earnest Hemingway and Ayn Rand (the novel is set in the 1960s).

I loved every aspect of this book, from the clear and concise prose, to the narrator's love affair with literature; from the humorous portrait of those famous writers who visit the school, to the growing maturity of the narrator not only as a reader but as a writer. All of this, and the book is only 200 pages.

So naturally after having read this morning's NY Times book section, and in particular Michiko Kakutani's review of Wolff's new collection of stories OUR STORY BEGINS, I'm in full covet mode, wondering if I really want to wait for the paperback.

Then again, I was already in covet mode when, on my way out of the door this morning, I happened to glance at this week's issue of the New Yorker, and read this bit of info on the "Contributors" page:

David Sedaris ("April & Paris," p. 38), has a new book of essays, "When You Are Engulfed in Flames," coming out in June.

What's this? A new book? And I have to wait until June? Sigh, yet another reason summer can't come soon enough. But I greet the news of Sedaris' new book with a little worry because, since he writes regularly for the New Yorker I fear I've already read many of the essays likely to be included in the new collection. Of course, my concern is moot because I'm buying it anyway. I'm just wishing I didn't have to wait so long.

1 comment:

Emily Barton said...

I agree. OLD SCHOOL is a real gem of a book. And don't worry. I worried about that with Sedaris's last book, only to discover that only about half of essays had originally been in THE NEW YORKER. And some of them were even more fun the second-time around.