National Endowment for the Arts - The Big Read
Old School

Old School

by Tobias Wolff

There is a need in us for exactly what literature can give, which is a sense of who we areā€¦ a sense of the workings of what we used to call the soul.


The Life and Times of Tobias Wolff

  1. 1940s
    • 1943: Robert Frost wins Pulitzer Prize for poetry and Ayn Rand publishes The Fountainhead.
    • 1945: Tobias Wolff is born on June 19 in Birmingham, Alabama.
    • 1945: World War II ends in August.
    • Viet Minh (the Vietnamese liberation movement) declares independence from France in 1945; French military forces resist the revolt in 1946, beginning an eight-year conflict.
  2. 1950s
    • Wolff, his mother, and his stepfather live in Washington State.
    • 1954: Ernest Hemingway wins the Nobel Prize in Literature.
    • 1954: The French are defeated at Dien Bien Phu; Vietnam is partitioned into North and South Vietnam.
  3. 1960s
    • John F. Kennedy elected U.S. President in 1960; assassinated on November 22, 1963.
    • Ernest Hemingway dies in 1961. Robert Frost dies in 1963.
  4. 1970s
    • 1973: The last U.S. combat troops withdraw from Vietnam.
    • 1975: Wolff earns a master's degree, marries, and publishes his first book.
    • 1975: Saigon falls to the North Vietnamese.
  5. 1980s
    • Wolff teaches at Syracuse University; he publishes a novella, two collections of stories, and his memoir This Boy's Life.
    • 1982: Ground is broken for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.
    • 1982: Ayn Rand dies.
  6. 1990s
    • Wolff begins teaching at Stanford; publishes his Vietnam memoir and his third volume of short stories.
    • 1993: The film version of This Boy's Life, starring Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Ellen Barkin, is released.
    • 1995: The U.S. restores diplomatic ties with Vietnam.
  7. 2000s
    • 2005: April 5 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
    • Wolff publishes Old School in 2003 and Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories in 2008.
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