Stoner

Stoner

Book - 2003
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Discover an American masterpiece. This unassuming story about the life of a quiet English professor has earned the admiration of readers all over the globe.

William Stoner is born at the end of the nineteenth century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming family. Sent to the state university to study agronomy, he instead falls in love with English literature and embraces a scholar's life, so different from the hardscrabble existence he has known. And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments: marriage into a "proper" family estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming experience of new love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude.

John Williams's luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world.

Publisher: New York : New York Review Books, [2003], ©2003
ISBN: 9781590171998
1590171993
Branch Call Number: FICTION Wil
Description: xiv, 278 pages ; 21 cm

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e
EljayJohnson
Aug 08, 2020

Slow, wonderful, agonizing, perfect.

m
MiaSiebert
Jul 18, 2020

A well-written book about a simple man's life. Part of what makes it so good, in my opinion, is the fact that Stoner's life is captivating despite being so ordinary. A great contemplative story.

e
EmilyEm
Apr 29, 2020

Chapter by chapter, readers are taken year by year through the life of William Stoner, a turn-of-the-20th-century Missouri farm boy turned academic, teaching for 40 years in the English department of his alma mater.

Originally written in 1965, Wikipedia says: In 2013 it was named Waterstones Book of the Year and 'The New Yorker' called it "the greatest American novel you've never heard of." Flawless prose, brilliant characterizations, so, so sad.

n
nngrey
Dec 14, 2019

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v41/n24/christopher-tayler/i-just-let-him-have-his-beer

r
Red_Goose_6
Jul 31, 2019

Truly a masterpiece. I found this book upon recommendation in the Nation recently. My life is so much more fulfilled after reading it; as is with every great novel.

j
jatkjim
May 28, 2019

A remarkable novel. The surface reveals the prosaic tale of a lonely early twentieth-century man often painfully compromised by his own integrity. Good fiction should explore the richness of human emotions and internal lives and this one does - perfectly.

amyraeweaver Apr 28, 2019

There's no good reason for Stoner to be such a good novel. It's a completely prosaic story: the birth, life, and eventual death of an utterly ordinary man. He's born into poverty, manages to enter university, and becomes a professor. (He's not a very good professor--it's stated straight out.) He marries and has a daughter. (He's not a very good husband or father.) And eventually, he passes away, never notable at all.

And yet, back when I worked at a bookstore ~2014, we sold an average of 2 copies a week. I met members of the publishing imprint's marketing team at a conference and told them that, and they were pretty gobsmacked--but it was one of the most popular books on our shelves. And that was simply because everyone at that store read the book and loved it so much that we could handsell it to just about anyone who liked Serious Literature For Grownups.

So let me handsell this book to you. Stoner's a quiet, contemplative novel, and there's no good reason why it works...but it DOES. This is a novel that could only ever be a novel--there's allegedly a film in production, but if it's made, it still won't hold a candle to this book, which tells a story that only really works on paper. There's something special about that, in my opinion, the fact that this book is among the bookiest of all books. It's not trying to be anything but a novel, and it succeeds beautifully.

If you like character-driven stories, literary fiction (especially from the middle of the 20th century), academics, or beautiful prose, you owe it to yourself to give Stoner a try.

k
kkucker
Oct 26, 2018

Williams's remarkable 1965 novel offers a window on early 20th century higher education in addition to its rich characterizations and seamless prose.

m
m0mmyl00
Jul 22, 2018

I loved this novel, though it infuriated and distressed me. Stoner was simply not equipped to defend himself against manipulation nor malevolence, and retreated to a life of the mind when he could have — and should have — taken a few swings at his tormentors. One doesn’t do that in academia, though, and it didn’t seem to have crossed his mind to stand up for himself in any way. His avoidance approach to life left him with a paucity of human connections. In many ways, he was the author of his own misery; but life treated him unfairly in many ways, too. He didn’t fight for the life he should have had, but neither did he deserve the life he got. A very affecting novel.

w
wyenotgo
Jan 16, 2018

I've never found myself so strongly in disagreement with my Goodreads correspondents as I am with this book. Simply put, it infuriated me. I found nothing noble or admirable about William Stoner. He allows himself to be mesmerized by his fantasy about an empty-headed daughter of the bourgeoisie, marries her despite knowing virtually nothing about her, allows her to bully him mercilessly, abandons his beloved daughter to be victimized by his vicious wife, gets ambushed by a sneaky, dishonest student who destroys his career ... and so it goes.
I suppose in his own way, Stoner is a "nice guy". Yes, those are the fellows who finish last ... if they finish at all.
All that said, in deference to Williams' elegant prose and skillful character development, I will struggle through to the end. Not enjoying this one bit!

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