Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stoner by John Williams (1965)

I have been wanting to read Stoner by John Williams (1922 to 1994, USA) for couple of years.  It was the Guardian book of the year for 2013. I am kind of reeling now from the impact of the telling of the life of William Stoner, trying to decide if is a work of terminal sadness or if there is redemption under the pain of Stoner's life.  My blog is in theory about literary works devoted to people who lead reading centered lives and this is just what Stoner did.  Stoner started college at The University of Missouri around 1908 or so.  He grew up on a simple farm owned by his parents.  He goes to college to study agriculture science, planning on returning to the farm on graduation.  He takes a class in literature and starts to love reading classical texts above all else.  I don't feel like telling the plot.  Stoner makes a terrible marriage, sticks with it for life, has a daughter but above all he loves reading.  He never leaves the university, teaching there for forty plus years.

Stoner is an excellant view of the petty world of academic politics.  Pedagogical professionals may be made to feel uncomfortable by the reasons offered as to why people choose to teach  at universities.

It is also a historical look at life in America from around 1908 to 1945.  We see the impact of World War One and Two on the campus, the depression and all is portrayed with great subtly.  

I love the prose style of Williams.  The characters are brilliantly done.  The portrait of the marriage is just harrowing in its understated intensity.  

I add my voice to the chorus of those who see this as must reading.  It is a very powerful work and many will find it depressing.

Please share your experience with Stoner with us and let us know if you have read other works by John Williams.

Mel u



Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

This bok was a real revelation to me and easily the best I read last year - very Jamesian but just beautifully done and utterly heartbreaking in its ultimate equanimity.

Alex Daw said...

I read this earlier this year on the recommendation of my step-sister who has excellent taste. This was my review on Goodreads "Yep. It's a good one. Not for everyone mind. A gentle elegy to a modest life but a life, nonetheless, filled with passion." It was an absorbing read - kind of snuck up on you and took you by surprise - to all intents and purposes very ordinary but extraordinary in its effect.

Alex Daw said...

P.S. This was my favourite's somewhat depressing but struck a chord with me “Nothing had changed. Their lives had been expended in the cheerless labor, their wills broken, their intelligences numbed. Now they were in the earth to which they had given their lives; and slowly, year by year, the earth would take them. Slowly the damp and rot woudl infest the pine boxes which held their bodies, and slowly it would touch their flesh and finally it would consume the last vestiges of their substances. And they would become a meaningless part of that stubborn earth to which they had long ago given themselves.”

Anonymous said...

I have not read Stoner but I'm a big fan of Mr. Williams other novel Butcher's Crossing. I should read Stoner, but I've come to have a grudge against it.

Butcher's Crossing is one of the best novels I have ever read, probably one of the best there is about the American West, but it gets no love. Stoner gets all the love instead. From what I can tell it is the more acceptable novel, the one about nice people, the one with manners.

Butcher's crossing is a western about buffalo hunters. It's not nice. It doesn't have manners. But it's a wonderful novel, one that packs a punch that knocked me flat.

But, I should still give Stoner a fair hearing.