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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.

288 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1965

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About the author

John Williams

12 books1,620 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

John Edward Williams, Ph.D. (University of Missouri, 1954; M.A., University of Denver, 1950; B.A., U. of D., 1949), enlisted in the USAAF early in 1942, spending two and a half years as a sergeant in India and Burma. His first novel, Nothing But the Night, was published in 1948, and his first volume of poems, The Broken Landscape, appeared the following year.

In the fall of 1955, Williams took over the directorship of the creative writing program at the University of Denver, where he taught for more than 30 years.

After retiring from the University of Denver in 1986, Williams moved with his wife, Nancy, to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he resided until he died of respiratory failure on March 3, 1994. A fifth novel, The Sleep of Reason, was left unfinished at the time of his death.

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Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books249k followers
February 1, 2019
"In his extreme youth Stoner had thought of love as an absolute state of being to which, if one were lucky, one might find access; in his maturity he had decided it was the heaven of a false religion, toward which one ought to gaze with an amused disbelief, a gently familiar contempt, and an embarrassed nostalgia. Now in his middle age he began to know that it was neither a state of grace nor an illusion; he saw it as a human act of becoming, a condition that was invented and modified moment by moment and day by day, by the will and the intelligence and the heart."


William Stoner grew up on a farm, a hardscrabble farm too small to provide more than just subsistence living. They were an undersized family for that time period, just his father and mother and himself. It took all of them to keep up with the backbreaking work of a farm in the early 20th century. His father, in his own way, a visionary man could see that farming was on the cusp of great changes. He sent Stoner to the University of Missouri to find out what the future was going to be for agriculture. Stoner wasn't an inspired student. He still had to work on a relative's farm to pay for his tuition and found the more work he did the less help he got from his relatives. He still had to go back to the family farm and help his father whenever he had spare time. He was almost too busy to worry too much about school

The first pivotal moment for Stoner is when he is sitting in an English class taught by his future mentor. The professor puts him on the spot asking him to explain a Shakespeare Sonnet. Stoner was dumbfounded not only with embarrassment, but by the language of the English bard. He switched majors from the department of agriculture to the department of English literature.

I grew up on a farm about 80 years after Stoner, as anticipated by Stoner's father, production agriculture took great leaps forward replacing a lot of backbreaking labor with machines. Farmers were able to increase their land holdings as tractors and thrashers allowed them to maximize daylight hours. I stacked a lot of hay, feed cattle in subzero weather, pulled calves (you've never been properly slimed until you've spent time up to your elbow in a cow's uterus.), fixed fence, rode tractors listening to Royals baseball games to keep from dozing off, drove trucks full of grain, and every minute I wasn't doing something for the farm or playing sports I was reading books. My parents don't know how it happened. It must have been an aberrant gene. Nobody I knew read books, except for the good book, which most of the time I couldn't tell they'd grasped many of the concepts of that book either.

The 1980s farm crises hit just as I was coming of age. Land values had jumped up and many farmers had expanded their operations. Then land values plummeted and bankers started realizing that the loans they had made to these farmers were no longer secured with enough equity. They started calling their customer's notes due. Thousands of farmers were forced to sell out. My Dad survived by the skin of his teeth. He decided there was no future in farming and told me I was going to college. My younger brother was a better fit for farming anyway. My Dad knew that I wasn't really cut out to be a farmer (my nose in a book all the time might have been the tip-off). A crises for many created an opportunity for me. Like Stoner I majored in English Literature.

Stoner becomes a teacher. He decides not to go to war with his friends and suffers from the stigma of swimming against the tide. This is a theme for Stoner, going his own way, ignoring the odd looks, and the snide remarks. He meets a demure young woman named Edith and pursues her doggedly believing that his kindness would be recognized and appreciated by someone so fragile. The description of the consummation of the marriage is one of the grimmest most agonizing that I have ever read.

"Edith was in bed with the covers pulled to her chin, her face turned upward, her eyes closed, a thin frown creasing her forehead. Silently, as if she were asleep, Stoner undressed and got into bed beside her. For several moments he lay with his desire, which had become an impersonal thing, belonging to himself alone. He spoke to Edith, as if to find a haven for what he felt; she did not answer. he put his hand upon her and felt beneath the thin cloth of her nightgown the flesh he had longed for. He moved his hand upon her; she did not stir; her frown deepened. Again he spoke, saying her name to silence; then he moved his body upon her, gentle in his clumsiness. When he touched the softness of her thighs she turned her head sharply away and lifted her arm to cover her eyes. She made no sound."

For a man so sensual and in need of romantic love he unfortunately married the wrong woman. He hoped for a partner, but found himself roped to a woman that embraced invalidism and waged nasty little wars against him that by his nature made him incapable of defending himself. He finds solace in books and spends more and more of his time at the University in Jesse Hall reading.

Jesse Hall at the University of Missouri

Stoner makes enemies of some of his coworkers. He is so unsuited for office politics that it proves to be a detriment to him. Though I was so proud of him towards the end of the book when he cleverly outflanks a department chair intent on driving him from the profession.

He meets a woman, a very special woman as if molded by the gods to be the perfect mate for him. Her name is Katherine Driscoll and the gymnastics involved with the misinterpretations, missteps and miscues of their burgeoning relationship left me emotionally drained. There are movies sometimes or television shows where the audience is on the edge of their seat waiting for the moment when the characters finally realize they are meant to be together and kiss for the first time. Well it wasn't a kiss that became that epic moment for William and Katherine.

"He found himself trembling; as awkwardly as a boy he went around the coffee table and sat beside her. Tentatively, clumsily, their hands went out to each other; they clasped each other in an awkward, strained embrace; and for a long time they sat together without moving, as if any movement might let escape from them the strange and terrible thing that they held between them in a single grasp."

Stoner's enemies leap at an opportunity to destroy him. Even the liberal community of a university has it's limits. Stoner for the first time in his life is becoming the person he always wanted to be, but the heady days of joy are under assault, and he is trapped by his own sense of honor. He suffers for love just as he is starting to understand it.

"In this forty-third year William Stoner learned what others much younger, had learned before him: that the person one loves at first is not the person one loves at last, and that love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another."

This is such a deceptively simple novel. The sparse, powerful prose give this book so much depth. Stoner gets under your skin. He is so stoic in the face of continued and unremitting harassment from the people around him that I found myself sharing the pain with him. The author John Williams grew up on a small farm in Texas and had a similar escape to the University as Stoner and I. He ended up developing the writing program for the University of Denver. In the introduction by John McGahern he relates something that Mr. Williams said that resonates with me as well.

Williams complains about the changes in the teaching of literature and the attitude to the text "as if a novel or poem is something to be studied and understood rather than experienced."

John Williams

I'm a reader that likes to be told a story. I don't want to break books down to their mathematical or scientific structures. I want the mysticism, the emotion of a journey that expands my understanding of humanity. William Stoner is as real to me as the mailman that delivers my mail or the publisher that signs my checks. If I ever run into him I will shake his large, farm hardened hand and ask him if he has a little bit of time to talk to me about a certain sonnet written by a man by the name of Shakespeare.
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,102 reviews7,203 followers
January 23, 2018
I read Stoner after I saw that almost all my friends on GR had read it. It’s an impressive work which I finished months ago but hard a hard time figuring out what to say about it with thousands of reviews already out there.

Stoner is the life story of an unremarkable man and the consensus seems to be “he did his best.” He came from a Missouri farm family and a poor background but manages to become an English professor at the university. One theme is the ‘loneliness’ and ‘distant courtesy’ of many of the characters, which I think applies to Stoner himself. This may be a trait of many academic folks who have some kind of social disability and turn to books as a substitute for social interaction.

He’s awkward around women but finally marries. Then we get I think, the most tragic lines in the book: “Within a month he knew that his marriage was a failure; within a year he stopped hoping that it would improve.”

His wife is constantly exhausted and at the edge of hysteria. After they have a child (a girl) his wife seems so uninterested in the child that Stoner becomes mother and father. His wife deliberately takes away any pleasures he has, such as converting his den to her “art studio” so that he can’t spend time alone with his daughter while he works as she does her homework. Let’s put it this way: his wife is “nucking futs.”

His life at the university offers limited respite to his hell at home. He gets into what is initially a trivial dispute with his department chair. The chair become his sworn enemy and punishes Stoner by taking away his graduate seminar courses. To a large extent Stoner is “an academic novel” highlighting all the backbiting and pettiness we’ve come to expect in these stories.

One faculty member says: “It’s for us that the University exists, for the dispossessed of the world; not for the students, not for the selfless pursuit of knowledge, not for any of the reasons that you hear.”

Stoner lets himself become a little crazy in the classroom. He loses the notes and becomes a good teacher, but this takes him several years “He suspected that he was beginning, ten years late, to discover who he was; and the figure he saw was both more and less than he had once imagined it to be. He felt himself at last beginning to be a teacher…” His younger colleagues recognize him as “a ‘dedicated’ teacher, a term they used half in envy and half in contempt…”

He has contradictory feelings about his life. On one hand: “He was forty-two years old, and he could see nothing before him that he wished to enjoy and little behind him that he cared to remember.” And yet, and yet…. “Except for Edith’s absence from it, his life was nearly what he wanted it to be.”

“He found himself wondering if his life were worth the living; if it had ever been. It was a question, he suspected, that came to all men at one time or another…” “Dispassionately, reasonably, he contemplated the failure that his life must appear to be.”

He thinks “What did you expect?” and that becomes his mantra as he lies on his death bed. Is he heroic? Or is he a loser?

It’s easy for an outsider to look back at Stoner’s life and tell him where he went wrong. Just as we can imagine a good friend or a brother or a sister telling us “you should have done this, Jim; you should have done that.” It’s obvious to them where we went wrong; yet they can’t see all the things we think and feel at the time; they can’t live our lives for us and despite all the advice and evidence that we should have done THIS or done THAT, instead we DON’T do that or we DO something entirely different. So as I look at Stoner’s life, here’s where I think he went wrong. Easy for me to say. I’ll put this in a spoiler in the unlikely event that there is anyone still out there who has not yet read Stoner:


Well, Stoner, “What did you expect?” How did that work out for you?

photo of the author from thefriendlyshelfiles.wordpress.com

Profile Image for Jimmy.
512 reviews738 followers
June 19, 2017
Spoiler alert: read at your own peril.

UPDATE December 2010:

I just submitted this to Better Book Titles. I hope they accept it.

Original Review October 2009:
This is the most straight-forward linear narrative type of novel I've read in the past year. So at first, I was not impressed. But I soon realized that the novel is impressive precisely because it is able to be so damn linear, the writing style so damn plain, and the characters so damn dull and yet... and yet it manages to make me continue reading on, driven by what I don't know. There is a constant melancholy through the book, but also its points of light.

So that was the first 100 pages or so. Then it gets good. I mean, really good. But I don't know why. Nothing that much changes, it is just events in the life of this guy. But I start to really care about him, or really understand him... or something. Let me just put it out there: this is a depressing novel. It is a devastating novel. It made me cry. But it is not one where horrible thing after horrible thing happens to good people. Many of the things that happen are... yes, horrible, but also very normal... they are more like small dissappointments.

John Williams is able to kill you softly with his immovable patience, his prose which is like the most patient thing in the world, and which builds and builds by inching closer and closer to the precipice. Precisely because he is not flashy. Precisely because he is so restrained in his prose, that you never realize it when you're right on the edge of the cliff and you're like "wait, how did I get here?"

Also: I don't mean to suggest that his prose is boring. His prose is beautiful. But straight forward. And very functional. It is in service to the subject matter. And the fact that it is not flashy 95% of the time makes it all the more devastating the other 5% of the time, when he floors it as in this passage:

"Years later it was to occur to him that in that hour and a half on that December evening of their first extended time together, she told him more about herself than she ever told him again. And when it was over, he felt that they were strangers in a way that he had not thought they would be, and he knew that he was in love." p53

or in this passage:

"It was a passion neither of the mind nor of the flesh; rather, it was a force that comprehended them both, as if they were but the matter of love, its specific substance. To a woman or to a poem, it said simply: Look! I am alive." p 250

I've rambled long enough. Let me just say a few more things, because I'm a bit delirious. The characters. They are complex and blameless. That is part of the devastation. You can't blame them for the decisions they make. Each one, even the ones that make our protagonist's life hell, you can't blame them because the writer makes you understand (slowly) why they are the way they are. What drives each character to drive each other mad. I read on one of these goodreads reviews someone said "It only troubles me that every single thing that Stoner thinks and says and does seems so incredibly right, or at least perfectly understandable, on first reading." That's what I mean. He didn't do anything wrong. Everything he does is understandable. He was just being himself the best way he knew how. And so was every character in this book.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
February 3, 2022
What did you expect?

I know this book touched me deeply because I am mentally going through every person I know to figure out who I can recommend it to. Most of them, I think. It's that kind of book that-- while still telling its own individual story --contains so many universal themes. Life, death, love, family, failure, integrity. And it's exactly the right amount of sad; bittersweet, I would say.

It tells the life story of William Stoner, a man we are told in the very beginning of the book would be remembered by hardly anyone after his death, the marks he made during his lifetime being faint and few. But what this leads into is an extremely well-written story of a man who grew up on a farm, was sent to study agriculture by his father and, there, at the University of Missouri, fell madly in love with literature and teaching.
Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.

Stoner did very little to carve himself a place inside my heart. Maybe it was the simple, humble nature of him that asked for so little and gave so much. His passion for teaching was pure and endearing. If anything, I sometimes wanted him to fight for himself a bit more, but it was not in his gentle nature.
In his forty-third year William Stoner learned what others, much younger, had learned before him: that the person one loves at first is not the person one loves at last, and that love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another.

Along the way, he marries, has a child, gets into a conflict with a colleague and loses friends and students to two World Wars. His life is full of ups and downs, sometimes allowing him happiness, often not. Through it all, he finds a certain comfort in his books and his classes. His turning to literature during the hard times spoke to me personally.

Summarised like this, it seems like such an unremarkable life and, as the opening paragraphs tell us, it sort of was, but I guess what is so wonderful about this story is that it shows how even a fairly average, unremarkable life is so full of passion and love. Personally, I didn't want to put it down.
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,379 reviews12k followers
May 27, 2022

For the hardworking men and women living in the open, windswept farm country of the American Midwest during the late 19th and early 20th century, day-to-day existence was frequently harsh and occasionally downright hostile, a stark, demanding life chiseling character as can be seen above in artist Grant Wood’s American Gothic. If you take a good look at this painting and then envision a son, an only child, working the fields alongside his father, you will have a clear image of the starting point for Stoner, John Williams’ classic novel of quiet perfection.

The novel follows the life of William Stoner from his boyhood on a Missouri farm through his years as a faculty member of the English Department at the University of Missouri. William Stoner is a good man, a man of integrity, a man, as we eventually find out through his relationship with a fellow faculty member, Katherine Driscoll, capable of profound intimacy and tenderness of heart. William Stoner is also a lover of literature, accomplished scholar and dedicated teacher.

But all is not well in the life of Professor Stoner, particularly in his home life. As a beginning instructor right out of graduate school, he marries a woman barely twenty years of age from St. Louis, the daughter of a banker, a young woman by the name of Edith Elaine Bostwick. Turns out, young Edith has suffered emotional abuse. And right from the start of her marriage, Edith inflicts emotional abuse on her husband Stoner and eventually on their daughter Grace. Personally, I found reading those parts of the novel involving Edith particularly wrenching bordering on painful.

Indeed, as readers we live through the pain of Stoner dealing with Edith’s wall of emotional frigidness and coldness, which includes being relegated as a husband in his late twenties to sleeping on the parlor coach at night. Through all the years of isolation and alienation, including Edith’s wedging a wall of separation between Stoner and Grace, there is one particularly poignant scene where we read:

“Once, while Edith was upstairs, William and his daughter passed each other in the living room. Grace smiled shyly at him, and involuntarily he knelt on the floor and embraced her. He felt her body stiffen, and he saw her face go bewildered and afraid. He raised himself gently away from her, said something inconsequential, and retreated to his study.”

For a child to become bewildered and afraid when a parent expresses such tenderness and affection speaks volumes to the level of emotional abuse at home.

Rather than dwelling on the grimness of Stoner’s family life, I will conclude with a final observation: Grace gives birth to a baby boy but after one brief visit did not return to the home of her parents with her son since, as Stoner realizes on his own and Grace tells him in so many words at one point during her whiskey drinking (and, yes, a grim fact: she has turned to alcohol), she got herself pregnant in the first place to escape the prison of her mother’s presence. Well, my goodness – as readers we have a good idea what it would mean for a sensitive man like William Stoner to be deprived of a relationship with his grandson.

Turning to Stoner’s professional life, there are serious cracks within the halls of academe. He is a man of integrity and honesty and the political infighting within academic departments is famous for being vicious and nasty. I wouldn’t want to say any more so as to spoil for a reader, but I can assure you Dr. Stoner is on the receiving end of a large dose of viciousness. But through it all, our main character remains strong. One memorable paragraph from the novel:

“But William Stoner knew of the world in a way that few of his younger colleagues could understand. Deep in him, beneath his memory, was the knowledge of hardship and hunger and endurance and pain. Though he seldom thought of his early years on the Booneville farm, there was always near his consciousness the blood knowledge of his inheritance, given him by forefathers whose lives were obscure and hard and stoical and whose common ethic was to present to an oppressive world faces that were expressionless and hard and bleak.”

Incidentally, when I was a 12-year old boy I joined me father, mother and sister as we took a trip in our car from the New Jersey shore across the American Midwestern heartland of farms to pay a visit to my grandmother. On the trip out and also in my grandmother’s town, I heard a number of harrowing tales of farm life, especially for the children of farmers. I reflected on those tales of physical hardship and unending toil and thus wrote this surreal micro-fiction some years ago:


Before he leaves the city they tell him how the country doctor drives a buggy made from the flesh and bones of his former patients.

“Nothing goes to waste,” is the way they put it when he finally arrives, “we’re all farmers around here.”

He joins the doctor on his first visit to a farmhouse to attend a sick woman. Instead of a thermometer, the doctor sticks his middle finger under the woman’s tongue and says, “I’ve done this enough times to know when someone has a fever.”

He looks over the doctor’s shoulder out the farmhouse window. Beyond a skeleton tied to a pole, he sees the farmer plowing his field using his younger son harnessed as a beast of burden.

“Doesn’t that take superhuman strength?” he asks the doctor.

The doctor answers, “His older son wasn’t quite as strong, but still makes a fine scarecrow.”

American author John William (1922-1994)
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,137 reviews4,181 followers
February 21, 2019
After 63 pages: “Stunned by Stoner. This is agonisingly wonderful.”

At the end: “Finished. Him and me. Exquisite but exhausted.”
Then I immediately started rereading - something I have only previously done with children’s picture books.

It is, without question, my joint favourite book ever. The other, utterly different ones are Titus Groan/Gormenghast (which I reviewed HERE) and the Heaven and Hell trio (which I reviewed HERE). But it’s hard to explain its mesmerising power in a way that does it justice.

What Sort of Story?

It opens with a page of downbeat, but carefully crafted spoilers, rather like an obituary, after which, the story is told straightforwardly and chronologically, from William Stoner’s last days at school and on his parents’ farm, to life as a university student, then university faculty member, marriage, parenthood, affair, and finally his death. His main joy is literature, and the university that enables him to share that love with others, reflected in simple but heartfelt words on his retirement, “Thank you all for letting me teach”.

It sounds dull, banal or both, but it's not. It's heartbreakingly beautiful, without being sentimental, and because Stoner is never without hope, I didn't find it a depressing.

Contrasts: Eloquence and Inarticulacy, Strong and Weak, Success and Failure, Gain and Loss

It’s a book about language and literature, and yet inarticulacy is a recurring theme: it is the direct cause of most of the pain, but also the trigger for his main happiness: in a compulsory literature review, it is his inability to understand, or perhaps to explain his understanding of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 that triggers a life-long passion and career. This reticence or inability to talk about innermost thoughts is perhaps one reason why the causes of Edith's behaviour are only hinted at: anything more explicit would set the wrong tone (and might not have been appropriate when published).

Almost all Stoner’s dreams come true, but happiness is always elusive and ephemeral. The good things are lost or, worse still, taken away by someone he had hoped would be his love or friend (Edith and Lomax, respectively). Both antagonists are sensitive, damaged people (as is Stoner) and Lomax even shares his love of literature for similar reasons (escape).

One message of the book is “carpe diem” (seize the day, or in youth speak: YOLO), which is also reflected in Sonnet 73’s focus on decay, death, and enjoying what we have while we can.

Stoner can be brave, such as swapping from an agricultural degree course with its predictable future to an English literature degree, inspired by a sonnet he struggled to explain – and yet he doesn’t have the courage to tell his parents until after they’ve attended his graduation.

What Sort of Man?

Some see Stoner as passive and weak. Certainly there are many times when I wanted him to act differently, or just to act at all - in particular, to stand up for his daughter and his lover.

Instead, he is quietly stoical, which is apt, given his areas of interest include classical Greek literature. His quiet stoicism, born of parental fortitude and nurtured by habit and habitat runs too deep for him to act as others would.

He loses everything he values (even the rapport with his students and the ability to enjoy his books) and in many respects, he is a failure as son, husband, father, lover, even scholar – but he keeps going, never bearing a grudge, trying his best. So sad, and yet curiously inspirational.

There are some autobiographical aspects: from a dirt-poor farm to university lecturer, and of personality and (some) demons. See this interview with Nancy Gardner Williams: HERE.

Time and Place

Unlike some readers, I find Stoner entirely believable, especially when you consider the much higher social cost of divorce back then.

Would the story be any happier if it were set today? It would certainly be different, but flawed people raise flawed people. Tolstoy famously wrote “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” and that would be just as true of one unhappy family transplanted from one period in history to another.

In a contemporary setting, even if he had married Edith (unlikely?), she would surely have got help (bi-polar abuse survivor?), though maybe too late to fend off divorce. Either way, matters would turn out better for Katherine and Grace, and Lomax and Walker would probably not have got away with as much as they did. I'm sure it's no coincidence that Williams set it more than a generation earlier than the time he was writing.

Speaking to Me

Why did this book move me in such a direct and personal way? I'm not a man, not American, wasn't born at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries and have never been a farmer or a professor. But I do love books, I do need escape sometimes, and I did spend much of my childhood on a family farm, though there was never any expectation that I would be a farmer.

The farm is part of it though: in some ways, Stoner reminds me of my beloved grandfather, who died when I was 14. Although he had a happier life than Stoner, he had the same quiet but dogged resilience, and always tried to make the best of what life or wife threw at him.

The other aspect that poured from the pages, especially second time round, was the emotional damage caused by bad parenting (albeit sometimes with good intentions), caused or exacerbated by poor communication. I was repeatedly reminded of Larkin’s famous lines “They fuck you up your mum and dad… But they were fucked up in their turn” (see below). Although I had a largely happy childhood, there were odd, complex and problematic aspects that have left their mark on the sort of adult and parent I am, and although I’m the mother of a wonderful 20 year old, I’m very conscious of things my husband and I could, and perhaps should, have done differently. (I think we’re doing better than the Stoners, though.)

Other Themes

Soil. Stoner is a son of the soil and there are many allusions to its power to spread and bind, whether seeping through the floorboards or being ingrained in the skin or mind. Soil chemistry is the only agricultural course mentioned by name, and Stoner enjoyed it – until he discovered his greater love: literature. He is transplanted from the countryside to the university, where he puts down roots, and stays – no matter what.

The university is the setting for almost all of the novel and arguably a character in its own right. Early on, one of the characters muses whether it is a path to self-fulfillment, an instrument for social good, or just an asylum. The novel quietly demonstrates that it is all three.

“Lust and learning… that’s really all there is” says one character, but both of those need an outlet. The insularity of most of the main characters and their unwillingness or inability to discuss or even show their feelings means they are lonely outsiders who can’t relish life. That aloneness exerts a high price that manifests itself in different ways; the saddest outcome is for Grace, Stoner’s daughter. We need to reach out to each other, communicate, and seize the day.

At times, Stoner is like Don Quixote, with Gordon Finch as a brighter and more influential sidekick than Sancho. This friendship is the one enduring human relationship. Finch repeatedly takes risks to help his friend, and yet it is a very understated friendship, that is not especially close. An area to explore further on a reread?

Problematic Aspects

There are three troubling aspects, but that conflict is part of what makes the book compelling:

• Two characters are self-described “cripples”. Times and vocabulary have changed, so that’s not the issue. What is harder is the fact that both characters are unpleasant and both use their disability to make false and malicious claims of prejudice to their own advantage.

• What are the issues around consent for

• The emotional abuse and manipulation of children is ghastly – but sadly credible.


Edith lurks in the shadows, pouncing occasionally. She is seen indirectly, in relation to Stoner and their daughter and it's easy to revile her for the slow and calculated cruelty she inflicts. I think Edith is meant to be closed and to some extent unknowable (because of her childhood) and because it puts the reader in Stoner's shoes.

I wondered if she was bi-polar. Such a term is never used, and I’m no expert, but her regular alternation between extreme industriousness and prolonged periods of being helpless and bedridden for no outwardly visible reason suggest something like that to me.

Another factor is surely her cold and repressive childhood, and . So it comes back to Larkin. Maybe that’s why she marries a virtual stranger (Stoner), saying “If it’s to be done… I want it done quick”, softening it by adding “I’ll try to be a good wife to you”.

Reminiscent Of

Apart from Larkin, aspects of this brought to mind:

• The father-daughter relationship in Williams' Augustus, reviewed HERE.

• Ian McEwan’s honeymoon novella On Chesil Beach, reviewed HERE.

• Any of the Richard Yates novels I’ve read, reviewed HERE.

• Stoicism, solace in literature, and connection to the soil in Cold Mountain, reviewed HERE.

• Another stoical, solitary, bookish, thoughtful man, embedded in his environment, though this one is almost faultless, is Jayber Crow, reviewed HERE.

• And the delightful, but less perfect Ebenezer Le Page, living his whole life on the little island of Guernsey, reviewed HERE.

• The paintings of Edward Hopper such as Room in New York: http://www.artexpress.ws/painting-img....

• If Stoner had followed his expected path through life, he would have been almost indistinguishable from the wonderful Harold and Raymond McPheron in Kent Haruf's two books, reviewed here:
Plainsong 5*
Eventide 5*

Williams' Four Novels, Compared

See the end of my review of his first (disowned) novel, Nothing But The Night, HERE.


• “It was a lonely household… bound together by the necessity of its toil.”
• “Dust daily seeped up through the uneven floorboards.”
• In the library, “inhaling the must odor… as if it were an exotic incense”.
• “Don’t you understand about yourself yet? You’re going to be a teacher” because “you are in love”.
• “He conceived himself changed in that future, but he saw the future itself as the instrument of change rather than its object.”
• “He felt his love increased by its loss.”
• “He felt the urgency of study. Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read… he realized how little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.”
• “He moved outward from himself into the world which contained him.”
• “He had never got into the habit of introspection.”
• “He thought he felt the gaze of the young woman brush warmly across his face.”
• “From the curtained window, a dim light fell upon the blue-white snow like a yellow smudge.”
• “Each footstep crunched with muffled loudness in the dry snow.”
• “In that [first] half hour… she told him more about herself than she ever told him again.”
• “Her moral training… was negative in nature, prohibitive in intent, and almost entirely sexual. The sexuality, however, was indirect and unacknowledged; therefore it suffused every other aspect of her education… She was ignorant of her own bodily functions, she had never been alone to care for her own self one day of her life.”
• “Like many men who consider their success incomplete, he was extraordinarily vain.” (Not Stoner.)
• “She entered [her wedding] … slowly, reluctantly, with a kind of frightened defiance.”
• “Edith moved into the apartment as if it were an enemy to be conquered.”
• “Within a month he knew that his marriage was a failure; within a year he stopped hoping it would improve.”
• Spring, “caught up in the somnolence of a new season”.
• “He watched with amazement and love… as her face began to show the intelligence that worked within her.”
• “The cost exacted… by the soil… they were in the earth to which they had given their lives… It would consume the last vestiges of their substances. And they would become a meaningless part of that stubborn earth.”
• “The love of literature, of language, of the mystery of mind and heart… the love which he had hidden as if it were illicit and dangerous, he began to display, tentatively at first, and then boldly, and then proudly."
• “They seldom spoke of themselves or each other, lest the delicate balance that made their living together possible be broken.”
• A “strategy that disguised itself as loving concern, and thus against which he was helpless.”
• “a ghost of the old joy… a learning toward no particular end.”
• Friendship “had reached a point that all such relationships, carried on long enough, come to; it was casual, deep and so guardedly intimate that it was almost impersonal.”
• “A kind of lethargy descended upon him… Time dragged slowly around him.”
• “He could see nothing before him that he wished to enjoy and little behind him that he cared to remember.”
• “The person one loves at first is not the person one loves at last, and that love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another.”
• Love is “neither a state of grace nor an illusion… a human act of becoming… by the will and the intellect and the heart.”
• “As the outer world closed upon them they became less aware of its presence… they seemed to themselves to move outside time.”
• Doom revealed “by grammatical usage: they progressed from the perfect – ‘We have been happy, haven’t we?’ – to the past – ‘We were happy – happier than anyone, I think’ – and at last came to the necessity of discourse.”
• “They coupled with the old tender sensuality of knowing each other well and with the new intense passion of loss.”
• “Indifference that became a way of living.”
• “She wandered like a ghost into the privacy of herself.”
• Stoner “did not allow himself the easy luxury of guilt”.
• “They had forgiven themselves for the harm they had done each other” – but what about the harm they did to Grace?
• “Lust and learning… That’s really all there is.”
• “Thank you for letting me teach.”

This Be The Verse, by Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

(For the record, I endorse the truth of the first two verses, but the third is a decision only you can make.)

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73

This is the sonnet used by Stonor’s tutor:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold,
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,195 reviews1,818 followers
March 7, 2021

Thomas Eakins: The Thinker: Portrait of Louis N. Kenton (1900. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City).

Shakespeare le parla attraverso tre secoli di storia, Mr Stoner. Riesce a sentirlo?... Cosa le sta dicendo, Mr Stoner? Cosa significa questo sonetto?
Stoner alzò lo sguardo con lentezza, riluttante. "Significa", disse… "Significa", ripeté, e non riuscì a terminare la frase

William Stoner era all’università per studiare agraria e tornare in campagna ad aiutare suo padre nei campi e, magari, grazie allo studio, riuscire a far rendere meglio la terra avara.
Un sonetto di Shakespeare lo folgora, come san Paolo sulla via di Damasco. Un’autentica epifania.
Ed è l’inizio di una vita nuova: basta con l’agricoltura, la letteratura e la lingua diventano la passione che lo accompagna fino alla fine.

Norman Rockwell

In realtà, di Stoner occorre dire qualcos’altro, di ben diverso.
Ma questa parte, all’inizio del libro, ho dovuto sottolinearla, perché io di fronte a questo libro sono rimasto letteralmente folgorato, senza parole, con tante lacrime, ma nessuna parola – e solo una è emersa dalla nebbia umida, "significa", appunto, proprio questa.
Che per me vuol dire, è bello, è bellissimo, questo libro è magnifico.

Yann Kebbi

Chi è William Stoner?
Un uomo senza qualità, viene da pensare, un mediocre.

Eppure, è pieno di qualità: è un uomo gentile, che conosce la Bellezza; ha un tenero rapporto con sua figlia, conosce l’amore più appassionato (ma esiste una storia d’amore più avvincente nella storia della letteratura?); non prova odio, né risentimento, né violenza; nutre una passione sempiterna per la letteratura e la lingua inglese.

Però: accetta, non si ribella, non dice, no, questo no, non lo farò, subisce, è passivo, inerme, si rassegna, si adatta - si sente fallito, e la sua vita brilla proprio come il perfetto fallimento di un’esistenza che a parte qualche settimana, qualche breve mese, è trascorsa in solitudine.
Stoner muore sostanzialmente solo: e questo credo sia il suo più vero fallimento (ma esiste una morte più trasparente di quella di Stoner nella storia della letteratura?).

Edward Hopper

Eppure Stoner è un uomo con principi, con idee, mantiene la sua passione per la letteratura, non è infelice, è tutto meno che una pietra: è come se non fosse davvero tangibile, come se fosse su un’altra dimensione, straniero a casa sua.

Una vita minima: dopo l’incipit viene da dire, no, basta, come si può riempire trecento pagine sulla vita di quest’uomo così insulso? Io non voglio essere lui, e per lui non ho interesse.

Ma ci vuole pochissimo per sentire che siamo in presenza della verità umana, come succede nella grande letteratura, che si tratta di una fuga nella vita.

Roberta Montaruli alias K.D

In qualche strano modo, durante la lettura, ho sentito Flaubert vicino, più di John Williams, che non conoscevo affatto.
E proprio come Flaubert con la sua Madame Bovary, mi viene da dire, Stoner sono io.

Scrittura bisbigliata, lineare, semplice, chiara, limpida, trasparente come una superficie di vetro, si vede attraverso, si capisce...

Un piccolo miracolo, che illumina: proprio come Stoner rimase illuminato dal sonetto 73 di Shakespeare.


Un difetto di luce, o meglio, A Flaw of Light, era il titolo originale di questo romanzo quando Williams lo consegnò alla sua agente, Marie Rodell. Fu la casa editrice Viking, dopo infiniti rifiuti, a pubblicarlo cambiando il titolo.

Ed ecco Stoner: sarà Casey Affleck a interpretarlo. Joe Wright a dirigere il film, regista dal quale purtroppo non c’è da aspettarsi granché.
Profile Image for Ilse (away until November).
475 reviews3,128 followers
July 12, 2018
Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.

What to do when everything goes wrong? Work, marriage, parenthood, eventually health? Plenty of benevolent advices and platitudes will whizz around your ears, to help you to bounce back . Remember, it is all in your mind. Happiness is the result of your approach to life, not of what happens to you. Revolt, anger, complaining or denial won’t change anything. Focus on what is instead of on what should be. Accept, accept, accept. Take one step at time, keep moving, keep working to what you want in life.

In our times of voluntarist belief in shaping our own destiny, only fools refuse or refrain to act or at least to try to take control of their own life .

But perhaps the only sensible thing to do is keep breathing. Minimal action, minimal reaction. Just embrace plain and simple old-fashioned and untimely Stoicism. Like Stoner. Wisdom lies in tuning our lives to the divine order of the universe and to want what actually is the case. As emotions have an external source, as we are being moved, touched, affected, impassioned, be the Master of Yourself and control your emotions. Do not strive for pleasure. Be un-touched. Only a fool tries to impose his own selfish desires upon reality and is the plaything of his emotions and desires. The consolations of philosophy applied to ordinary life.

Amongst the teachers I know, there is a bittersweet running joke, when talking about the essence of their profession. Why does someone chooses to become a teacher? And, bursting with self-mockery laughter, they sing in unison Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Stoner’s friend Dave Masters, could probably agree with it, when he is partly ironically speaking about the true nature of universities: ”It is an asylum or — what do they call them now? — a rest home, for the infirm, the aged, the discontent, and the otherwise incompetent."

This novel strongly reminisced academic life, its seclusion and petty machinations. Not having Stoner’s gift of endurance, I fled, abandoning the dream of a life of learning and science after 6 years of struggle, as university was not the refuge and source of wisdom this naive working class daughter hoped for, but a ruthless, almost egotistic habitat crushing me – a place where teaching didn’t really matter. As Ian trenchantly points out, if we empathize with Stoner’s dire life, couldn’t it be because of our own wounds and experiences too?

Imagine yourself living together with Stoner. However wise and admirable his stoicism, there is also a solipsistic aspect to it. According to his creator, Stoner is altogether a happy man:”He had a very good life. He had a better life than most people do, certainly. He was doing what he wanted to do, he had some feeling for what he was doing, he had some sense of the importance of the job he was doing.” But what about the effect of his stoic attitudes on the lives of the others in his life? His parents, wife, daughter, lover? Does he really care? I disliked Williams’s portrayal of Edith, Stoner’s vicious battle-axe of a wife – I guess I am not conversant enough with the perception of American women in that part of history, but her one-dimensional depiction hardly exceeds the caricature image of the neurotic frigid female, like the Madge in Frank Zappa’s Harry you’re a beast (You paint your head - Your mind is dead -- You don't even know what I just said - THAT'S YOU: AMERICAN WOMANHOOD! You're phony on top - You're phony underneath - You lay in bed & grit your teeth. MADGE, I WANT YOUR BODY! HARRY, GET BACK! MADGE, IT'S NOT MERELY PHYSICAL! HARRY, YOU'RE A BEAST!).

Coming no further than these personal musings, I feel not able to do justice to this poignant novel, hitting a little too close to home, for more than one reason. Yes, Stoner is as unforgettable a character as many reviews point out. Yes, in many respects, I have known a Stoner. We were married for 16 years. He was, like Stoner, the most stoic person I ever met. He illustrated his philosophy lectures with a cartoon from D. Palmer’s Looking at Philosophy: The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter ; afterwards showing it to our children to teach them equanimity when things didn't work out as they would like they did. As I am not that stoic like he was, because of its ending, I didn't have the heart to pass the book to him.

Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
November 17, 2020

It was a hard decision; it was a choice between this and The Vegetarian by Hang Kang. But I had to think which book taught be the most, and which book helped me the most. I enjoyed them both immensely, I loved them, but this one set me on my path in life; thus, I will always be grateful for John Williams and his Stoner.

He opened the book; and as he did so it became not his own. He let his fingers rifle through the pages and felt a tingling, as if those pages were alive. The tingling came through his fingers and coursed through his flesh and bone; he was minutely aware of it, and he waited till it contained him, until the old excitement that was like horror fixed him where he lay……

William Stoner has a terrible life: his marriage is a disaster; his daughter resembles her damaged mother; his teaching career is hindered by an argument with a fellow faculty member, and he is subjected to continual waves of misery. All in all, it’s a sad life: it’s his life. However, through all the shit times, and the occasional glimpses of happiness, one thing keeps him animated; it’s a thing every reader knows: a love of words, a love of books and a love of the wonderment of literature. I will never forget the journey I shared with Stoner in these pages.

He is a flawed man. When he was a student he had no real ambition or drive. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, but he knew what he didn’t want to do: he didn’t want to be a farmer like his farther. A university lecture inspired him with the marvels of Shakespeare; he asked him a question, a question that changed Stoner’s life. The result was a switch in academic discipline and an enthusiastic perusal of everything literature based. Stoner became engrossed with his work; he quickly forgot about the outside world, and refused to take part in the war effort. This is a feeling I know all too well. When one is completely engrossed in reading, obsessed even, it becomes difficult to pay attention to reality. If you’ve made it this far into my review, then I probably don’t need to tell you that. Stoner had what he needed: he had his books. But, life isn’t always that simple.

“He had come to that moment in his age when there occurred to him, with increasing intensity, a question of such overwhelming simplicity that he had no means to face it. He found himself wondering if his life were worth the living; if it had ever been.”

A profound question to ask oneself, and I truly think this helped to consolidate his decisions. Student life comes to an end for most folk. For Stoner there is no end. University is his home; it is his life; it is his passion and his drive: it is the one and only constant in his existence. So why would he ever leave it? Why would he ever give it up? The student becomes the teacher, and Stoner extends his stay for a lifetime. He has nothing else to cling to, only a love for his field of scholarship. I cannot quite express how much I sympathise with this character here. As a student of literature, and a huge hobby reader, sometimes there seems to be little else on the horizon but to peruse one’s passion. For Stoner though, his choice was the only one he could ever have made. His existence is only really for one purpose, and because of this he realised very early on his consequential fate.

“It’s like it just all goes around and around and keeps on going. It makes you wonder.”

As Stoner gets older his peers begin to die. In this he sees what awaits him; he has the stark realisation that he, too, will die. This may seem trivial and an obvious fact of life, though a realisation of such magnitude can really alter character. Stoner has a midlife crises; he has a glimpse of what his life could have been like had he married his soul mate: his love and intellectual equal. It is a shame for Stoner that such a thing came when he was already settled, but, again, that’s just life. This problematic relationship sets him even further on his course. I don’t need to tell you about the ending. It is an obvious conclusion for such a book, though I will say that its delivery was nothing short of perfection. Never before have I read a book in which the entire thing is embodied in its final few words. I’m amazed. I’m shaken. I’m stunned. I’m numb.

>Why you should read this: I don’t often go as far as to explicitly state something like this in a review. Reading is personal and subjective. My reviews are just my opinion; they may not be shared by others. With this, however, I would go as far to say that this should be read by every reader, every reader who has felt the sharp pangs that literature can evoke. Here is a man who is completely lost; here is a character that has nothing really to live for: here is a man who is lost in the words, and it’s his salvation. And this is his life story. This is not a simple novel. It is a bildungsroman that is tragic, emotive and even inspiring. This book opened my eyes to many things. I learnt a great deal about life and myself in the process. Trust me, fellow bibliophiles, go read it. This is something really special.



You can connect with me on social media via My Linktree.
Profile Image for Candi.
623 reviews4,717 followers
January 18, 2020
"… a quiet sadness for the common plight was never far beneath any moment of his living."

This novel damn near broke my heart. Come to think of it, it did break my heart. I’ve been picking up the pieces and trying to put them back together for the past eleven days since finishing it. I don’t know what else to say that hasn’t already been said about this exceptional piece of writing. We are William Stoner. Isn’t there a piece of him in every single one of us? We go about our lives with the best intentions. Looking for friendship. Searching for love. Thinking we’ve found it and then not exactly knowing what to do with it. Making mistakes and yet enduring. Sometimes doing battle but mostly resolving ourselves to our individual circumstances.

"The past gathered out of the darkness where it stayed, and the dead raised themselves to live before him; and the past and the dead flowed into the present among the alive, so that he had for an intense instant a vision of denseness into which he was compacted and from which he could not escape, and had no wish to escape."

This is another one of those contemplative novels that leaves me feeling like I’m in the presence of a wise soul. He or she speaks to me quietly but with an underlying urgency I cannot ignore. This soul is not showy but quite pure and simple. It’s achingly honest. I have to wonder though – do we all necessarily damage one another? Do the effects of a hard life trickle down through the generations so endlessly? I hope not. Love, marriage, and parenting – such challenging waters to navigate at times. Our best is never good enough. Perhaps we are the harshest judges of our own actions.

"Dispassionately, reasonably, he contemplated the failure that his life must appear to be."

It can’t get more depressing than that. Yet, there were glimmers of hopefulness and happiness that guided me through to the end of this book. Moments in time that make it all worthwhile. Love for literature and finding love itself. Loving a child. Do we really need an abundance of everything? There were some passages that really took hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I’m still in the clutches of Stoner’s (and John Williams’) words.

"Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know."

I’ve always been able to relate to that. Sitting surrounded by our massive piles of books, we can all empathize, I’m sure.

"… the person one loves at first is not the person one loves at last, and that love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another."

It kind of makes you want to fall in love all over again, doesn’t it?!

I don’t know why I waited so long to read this novel. I knew I would love it. This was the first book I picked up on the first day of the new year, new decade. I wouldn’t be surprised if it remains my favorite of the year.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,219 reviews9,916 followers
May 17, 2017
I asked my daughter if me and her and her mother were in a hot air balloon and it was about to crash into the ocean who would you throw out to keep the balloon aloft, me or your mother? She said she’d throw me out. I said Why? She said Because you’re bigger than her. So I said okay, imagine that me and your mother weigh exactly the same, then who would you throw out? She said she’d throw me out. I said why? She said because you’re older, so you’ve had your fun. So I said okay, imagine that me and your mother weigh the same and we’re exactly the same age, now who would you throw out? She said she’d throw me out. I asked why? She said because you keep asking all these stupid questions. So I gave up on that line of enquiry and read Stoner, a much loved novel.

It’s about this teacher. Boy, do people like to wax sentimental about teachers. There’s Mr Chips in Goodbye Mr Chips and there’s John Keating in Dead Poets Society and that’s just off the top of my head. William Stoner in this sorry tale is a Missouri farm boy who goes to university to study agriculture then gets smacked upside his head by one of Shakespeare’s sonnets and never looks back. He becomes a worshipper at the shrine of literature, with a capital L and becomes a teacher of it.

This is the kind of study of Literature where a student will announce

I intend to trace Shelley’s first rejection of Godwinian necessitarianism for a more or less Platonic ideal through the mature use of that ideal as a comprehensive synthesis of his earlier atheism, radicalism, Christianity and scientific necessitarianism

You at the back wake up! I’m not even half way done with this damned review. Well, university English departments did and maybe still do crank out students who write this sort of abstruse shite and it’s all just as useful as the great theological treatises about the nature of the Logos in St John’s left earhole or whether it was 5000 herrings or 5000 cod in the feeding of the 5000. What a colossal waste of time.

(p. 184)

Yes, I could not but agree, possibly a leek or a radish or a turnip or a mangel wurzel. Stoner is exactly what a vegetable would be if a vegetable could be a junior professor in English at the University of Missouri. He plods dully through his life in a very vegetably way. He sees a pretty girl at the age of around 25, having apparently never seen one before, and thinks “I…will…marry…that” and does so. This turns out to be a giant MISTAKE.

Like Smokey Robinson said in 1961

Gotta get yourself a bargain son
Don't be sold on the very first one
Pretty girls come a dime a dozen
Try to find one who's gonna give ya true lovin'
Before you take a girl and say I do now
Make sure she's in love with you now
My mama told me
You better shop around

In all fairness, William’s mother never gave him this advice as she was still down on the farm rassling with the piglets. Edith, the bride, turns out to be the very dictionary definition of damaged goods. Some readers think she’s simply bonkers but John Williams puts in a scene which clearly shows where her fear and hatred of men has come from, and it was all very sadly believable.
So poor old Bill. He’s married a cross between Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest and Glen Close in Fatal Attraction. No bunnies are harmed during this novel, it is true, but there is a strong suggestion that Edith would have boiled up a dozen if only she’d have thought of it.
Oh and then Bill Stoner gets embroiled in a ridiculous trench war in the English department, the upshot of which is that now his boss also hates him and spends 25 years making sure his professional life is a misery.

What a pickle! Hated by wife and boss! Onward plods the vegetable, through the rest of his painful life.

For the first half I had to agree with the vast majority of 4 & 5 starrers of Stoner. It was weirdly compelling. It was boring but kinda hypnotic, like Donna Tartt’s Secret History. It was boring in an interesting way. But jeez, then it all becomes a little too much. If it’s a plot spoiler I will say that for 30 pages or so our Bill is actually HAPPY! But you know and I know that won’t last and we’ll be back to stoically enduring and gritting teeth and shoulder to the wheel. So the stars began to fade away and by the last page Stoner was very lucky to hang on to his third star.
Profile Image for David.
161 reviews1,495 followers
January 6, 2010
I was going to start out this review of Stoner by feigning comic incredulity that the former conductor of the Boston Pops wrote a novel about potheads, but that is far, far too obvious and unsatisfying even for the likes of me. Instead, I am going to confess that I read only half of it (and, thereby, my ignorance has been properly disclaimed) but that this aborted reading filled me with such unmitigated contempt for the author that I plan on mounting every soapbox (if soapboxes haven't been technologically obviated by now) from here to the Great Barrier Reef condemning this plodding, tiresome, amateurish book with an antagonistic passion that literature hasn't evoked in me since Cambridge's A Concise History of France (wherein concision meant excising significant historical events in favor of agricultural data and a dimly Marxist perspective, but I digress -- as always).

I shouldn't blame John Williams for my rising blood pressure because in fact YOU are to blame. Yes, you. Perhaps not individually, but in the general sense of Goodreads voters and reviewers, of which you are presumably a constituent. As of this moment, Stoner has an average rating of 4.39 stars out of five on the basis of 531 Goodreader ratings. This is a remarkable score, to be sure, but as with many averages, it is complete and utter bullshit -- obviously contaminated by the spurious opinions of the ardent fans of graceless, tedious prose. You know who you are.

Let's parse the data, shall we? 459 people gave this turd four or five stars; whilst only eleven people were courageous enough to call a spade a spade and, against the grain of general opinion, to award it only one or two stars. I consider these eleven people heroes. You and your ilk can eulogize the armed forces, the pigs, the schlubby, mustachioed rescue workers, with your tearful montages of wars, standoffs, and celebrity house fires, all assembled to the reactionary tunes of 3 Doors Down or Nickelback; I prefer a subtler form of heroism -- you know, the lone voice who amid the Russophilic, ostentatiously intellectual acclaim for Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita dares to raise an eyebrow at this dry Goethe wannabe...

I therefore am a great hero because, fighting the insidious cabal of 'respectable' opinion, I offer my head to the rabble in order to warn you what a lifeless stinkbomb Stoner is. John Williams, I suspect, was an author who was better suited to actuarial work or fumigating. Something more prosaic. His main problem is that he wants desperately to tell you everything. He's adamant that you know this or that about his main character William Stoner's psychological make-up, habits, and proclivities, but unfortunately he'd rather put Mr. Stoner behind a glass wall at the zoo and recite a bunch of vague adjectives and banal activities relevant to him. In placing Stoner in the zoo and preparing a dry summation about him, he deprives Stoner of life, abbreviates him into a concept...

This is one of the worst kind of all writers, in my opinion. He's committed to telling us and not to showing us. He wants to control your attitude toward the characters by completely demystifying them. Williams lays everything on the table, as if he's handing you a psychological abstract. More than a few times, I wished that John Williams were not dead and were ready-at-hand, so I could give him a chocolate swirlie. And then I pulled back in my condemnation for a moment... I rethought my rage... There are literally jillions of shitty writers on this planet, and a not-insignificant number have had their works published. Why should I blame John Williams for having a dream -- a grand ambition? I wish for nothing less myself. The intended repository for my rage and general ill-will should be those who have applauded this crapfest -- the ones who've elevated it to the status of minor classic of 20th century American literature.

The straw which broke the etc. came midway through the book when Stoner's wife, until then a mousy, retiring, sickly sort, adopts a new attitude after the death of her father. She bobs her hair (it's the 1920s) and throws out her old clothes and buys some of those shapeless flapper-type shifts, and -- more consequentially -- she declares war on her husband. The psychology might as well be written in neon. She resents the dull (and not very affluent) academic life her husband provides. The switch is so abrupt and ridiculous that all of the author's explanations and expositions do nothing to make it palatable, even in his stubbornly distanced and abstract telling. I've read better character development when we got in small groups to discuss our first stories in Creative Writing 101.
Profile Image for Andy Marr.
Author 3 books786 followers
March 24, 2023
This is quite possibly the saddest novel I've ever read. It's certainly one of the most beautiful.
Profile Image for Adina .
891 reviews3,547 followers
June 7, 2021
I have very conflicting emotions regarding this novel so I decided not to rate it. For almost half of the novel I thought all the 5* reviews were right and I was listening to a literary masterpiece. Then, something happened and I started to get pissed of by the author and Stoner. I still very much enjoyed the subtle beautiful prose but I could not ignore some aspects that bothered me. I will explain in more detail what I mean but there will be spoilers. Because of that, I will start with a short spoiler free review and then get into more detail. Before everything, I state that I understand how most people read this novel and why they appreciate it and also what the intention of the author was. What follows is how I "felt" while reading, a mix of appreciating for the novel but also some indignation. Indignation might be good in some books but I am not sure this was the author's intention.

William Stoner, the son of a farmer, is sent to University to study agriculture. There, he falls in love with the world of the written words and changes his major to literature. He abandons his family and their hope to improve their farm to follows his passion. Don’t worry, this is not a book about passion, it is more about the lack of it and about stoicism. He is told by his mentor that he should be professor so he decides to follow that path because he had no better plans anyway. He later marries the first girl he likes, a decision he will come to regret soon enough. The novel becomes a long succession of small bouts of restrained happiness and longer periods of extreme misery. Everyone seems to be against him and try to hurt hm. It is one of the finest examples of misery lit and stoicism again the hurts life throws at you. It was endearing and heart breaking for a while until it became too much. The stoicism became inaction/victimisation and a disappointment to me. The writing is beautiful, although detached it felt hypnotic and I had the compulsion to listen on and on. Although we are told about a series of events in the life of William Stoner I was not bored most of the time.

Alright, what went wrong? The magic started to dissipate after Edith came back from her father’s funeral reincarnated as Cruella, with revenge on her mind. I did not like the sudden transformation of Edith into a super villain who made every effort to make poor William’s life a living hell. She was a damaged woman from the beginning but this extra evilness/craziness felt artificial, like the author had someone in his past that he needed to take his revenge on. Stoner was the only victim, not once did the author consider Edith’s feelings and psychology. The marriage was arranged between his father and Stoner, she didn’t really have a say in the matter of her life. Her planned Holiday to Europe was cancelled and she became the wife of a stranger. It is suggested she also had some past trauma so that did not help either. Nevertheless, she was presented only as a perpetrator.

Secondly, the whole affair with the other two supper villains, the physically impaired duo, was also hard to stomach for me. I did not clearly understand the reasons behind their vendetta and their hate for the “hero”. What bothered me the most was his inaction to save his daughter, which is something I cannot forgive. I could have been lenient and take it as part of the story but the author considers Stoner a real hero, an example of resistance against the world who wants to harm him. He is the only victim, his wife and daughter are negligible. The writer does not see them as victims as well. So, yes a blame the author because I did not give this book 5 stars. The way the books started, I thought there was no way to give it less.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,947 reviews611 followers
February 3, 2023
William Stoner was born in 1891 in a poor peasant family. In the hope that he would return to the farm better armed to confront a thankless Earth, his parents sent him to Columbia University in Missouri to follow a course in agriculture. But quickly, the young Stoner discovered a considerable interest in literature and abandoned agriculture to enroll in a Bachelor of arts. «His clumsy fingers turned the pages with the most care, terrified that they were to the idea of damaging or tearing what they had worked so hard to discover.» Stoner is far from a genius, but he gets his doctorate and becomes a professor at Columbia University.
During the first world war, Stoner decides not to engage. "We shouldn't ask professors to destroy what they have, their life, sought to build." This decision is the first of a long list that is no less harmful as he will carry it through life with embarrassment. So occurs Edith Bostwick, the girl of the right family, and Stoner ignites and is considering more experience without it. The marriage concluded quickly, but it turned sour on the first night. Stoner's marital life will mark by resentment and hostility, and these bitter feelings trouble the couple's only child.
Stoner has passion and knowledge. He teaches, hoping to be a smuggler, but quarrels with another teacher hinder his career. So, once again, he resigned and continued a contemplative and stubborn, University life as if the work was his only hope of salvation. "During the Christmas holiday, [...], William Stoner made aware of two things: on the one hand, the importance and the crucial place of his daughter in his existence, on the other hand, the idea that it was possible, that it was possible to become a good teacher."
Failed husband, bruised father, and frustrated teacher, Stoner is a dynamic character who seems programmed to make bad choices and beat a retreat when one would expect him to fight. "What he moved it, he spoiled him." He is not a coward or a loser, but he is without scale, and he always feels an 'absence to himself, as if events took place without him and marked history. "He was forty-two years old—nothing before motivated him again and so little behind which he loved to remember. " Stoner said the strength of the weak, this patience without hope that let us wait for better days.
What tenderness I had for this man, long and curved, needy and inhabited by a desperate passion for books! "He had never lost from view the chasm that separated his love of literature of what he was able to testify." This novel is not colorful; it occasionally happens, not much, but it develops a quiet reflection on the lives of those who need books. With filigree of the history of the United States - prohibition, the stock market crash of 1929, rural poverty, modernisation-the Stoner lifestyle is not a tragic piece but a parable. Friends of books, this novel is for you!
Profile Image for محمد مكرم.
68 reviews120 followers
January 27, 2021
لا أحب الروايات التي تدور حول شخصية سلبية، رغم أن تلك الشخصيات نراها في حياتنا اليومية، ربما لأنها شخصية تثير الاستفزاز والحنق أكثر من الشفقة، فما بالنا بشخصية استاذ جامعي سلبي يرى حياة ابنته الوحيدة تتهاوي دون أن يتدخل، ويتسبب في تعاسة معظم من حوله
Profile Image for Rinda Elwakil .
501 reviews4,561 followers
December 25, 2018
لأن كتابا جيدا بإمكانه إنقاذ حياتك..

كيف نبدو في عيون العالم؟

ويليام ستونر،ويلي
مثال مرعب لنظرية "جعلوه فانجعل"، مثلت لي كل ما أكره وكل ما أسعى لأن لا أكون

هلم يا رجل، افعل شيئا بحق الله
افعل شيئا لعينا.

*لا تعلم هل تريد أن تصرخ بها في وجهه وتصفعه، أم تحتضنه وتبكي..

ترك مزرعة والديه ليلتحق بالجامعة، لا لأنه أراد ذلك، لأنهم آخبروه أنه بإمكانه أن يفعل
انتقل لمنزل اقرباء له خلال فترة الجامعة، وكلوه بمهام لا تقل مشقة عما كان يقوم به كمزارع في منزله الأول
اومأ برأسه و باشر بالعمل علي مر سنوات، بل وفق مواعيده حتي ينجز الأعمال صباحًا وينجز مهامه الدراسية علي أكمل وجه مساءً
بعد تخرجه نال درجتي الماجستير و الدكتوراة لأن معمله أخبره أن بإمكانه الالتحاق بمنحة لتميزه
عمل كمدرس في الجامعة لأن الإدارة أخبرته أنه سيفعل، لم أنا؟
ألا تعلم؟ أنت مدرس بالفطرة

زوجة مُحبطه مُحطمة قررت أن تفعل كل ما في وسعها لتعجله يقوم برد فعل واحد لعين، كي يعترض علي أي شئ
مهما تمادت ومهما وصلت لدرجات مريعة من السادية
كان يُدبر أموره، بلا ايماءة تبدي انزعاجًا أو حزنًا
كانوا يجعلوه، فينجعل
بتلك البساطة

لأن كتابا جيدًا بإمكانه إنقاذ حياتك حين يريك سيناريو دقيق مرعب يردك مرغمًا إلي بداية الطريق كي تصحح الأمور ولا تكون ستونر آخر

إذا أردت أن تنال الخلود، دع أديبا بارعا يكتبك
سوف تنال الخلود، حتي لو كنت رجلًا عاديًا
مثل ويليام ستونر
رواية غير عادية، تروي السيرة الذاتية لرجلٍ عادي.
Profile Image for RandomAnthony.
394 reviews110 followers
June 23, 2020
John Williams's Stoner blew me away. I've never read anything like it and some passages left me moved to the point of exhaustion. When I finished I put down the book (well, the Nook), picked it up again, and re-read highlighted pages. Stoner gave me strength; if you believe that the right books find you at the right time, as sometimes I believe, this book found me at the right time.

Stoner outlines the life of a farm kid who, at his dad's recommendation, attends college for agricultural studies but switches to literature and becomes a low-level university faculty member for most of his career. He marries an affluent city girl, starts teaching, and loves his daughter. His marriage begins to crumble and he starts an affair with a student. He runs afoul of university politics and lands an insulting teaching schedule. Williams manages, with breathtaking grace, to create complex, nuanced characters through lean, careful sentences. He'll pass years with a few heartbreaking paragraphs and allow the reader to generate what's between the lines. Stoner is like a Rothko painting put to words; empty blotches, perhaps, at first glance, but sublime, minimalist depth with time and attention. Characters change, but not all the way, then change back again, and, if a happy ending emerges, it's a still, sublime happiness.

I'm a teacher so I was, of course, overlaying my own background on the text while reading. But I think I would have appreciated Stoner anyway. The novel's power rises from its quiet, subtle movement. An excellent introduction (I don't think I've ever said that before...most introductions are stupid) in the NYRB edition includes a rate Williams interview in which the author describes the main character as heroic for, essentially, sticking to his own values and doing the best he can. What might appear as small failures are potentially victories in the context of Stoner's values (which, in other characters' eyes, sometimes appear as stubbornness). And even if you can't control every element of your environment, the politics at your job, how the people you love respond to challenges, and other variables across the multitudes of contexts, you can respond with grace and dignity. And when, nearing death, he experiences this:

A sense of his own identity came upon him with a sudden force, and he felt the power of it. He was himself, and he knew what he had been

I wanted to raise my fists in the air and recognize all of the invisible punk rock people living quietly, without affectation, holding as true as possible to their cores in the face of unrelenting messages that there is something wrong with them and they should feel other than they do and be other than what they are.

Stoner is amazing. You might not like it, I suppose, as some of my GR friends didn't. But even glancing through the text, searching out quotes, makes me feel more alive. For me, Stoner is one of those books. Thank you, Mr. Williams. You made my weekend. And beyond.

P.S. In some of the book's NYRB promotional materials Tom Hanks praises Stoner. I swear, Mr. Hanks, if you turn this novel into a movie, I will beat your ass. At least on the internet. I'm afraid you'll include scenes in which you're standing on a leaf-blown quad, deep in thought, staring into the sky, while treacly strings play in the background and the camera pans high and away. Don't fucking ruin this novel, Mr. Hanks. I'm warning you.
Profile Image for Guille.
785 reviews1,749 followers
January 2, 2018
La novela es bellísima, y Stoner, pues sí, es de esos personajes que se te quedan aquí, pegaditos para siempre.

En alguna de las reseñas que leí sobre esta obra se apuntaba como el tema del libro a la futilidad de la vida, y eso jugaba a su favor en lo que a mi interés por él se refiere. Pues bien, mi parecer es que es más bien una explicación de como esa vida fútil, sin grandes logros, con serios contratiempos incluso, puede ser llevada con una gran dignididad e incluso alcanzando la felicidad, o algo que se le parece mucho, durante amplios periodos de tiempo.

La felicidad es una posibilidad al alcance de muy pocas personas; Stoner es una de ellas. El estoicismo con el que Stoner encara su vida haría las delicias de un Marco Aurelio o de un Séneca. La templanza y la serenidad que parecen regir su vida (aunque estas parecen romperse en los últimos capítulos, tras la marcha de su gran amor, son felizmente recuperadas de nuevo... aunque no sin antes darnos alguna satisfaccción por fin) y que tanto nos perturba a sus lectores, que asistimos impotentes a los sinsabores de un matrimonio desgraciado, al injusto trato profesional que recibe, a la inexplicable desidia ante la monopolización de la vida de su hija por parte de su esposa, a la decisión que toma ante su gran amor, esa serenidad digo, es su gran fuerza ante esos embates de la vida que va encarando a medida que se presentan, nunca antes, con entereza y con una convicción que no será nunca más analizada ni, por supuesto, cuestionada (solo al final de su vida echa un cierto vistazo retrospectivo). Y todo ello no es algo que pueda aprenderse y tampoco es algo fácil de sobrellevar para los que comparten la vida con seres tan privilegiados.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.7k followers
August 17, 2020
i have started and stopped writing this review several times because i cant seem to find words big enough to do this book justice or words strong enough to hold how i feel about it.

this is a story about an average man living an every day life. it could be considered unglamorous, boring, and even frequently disappointing. but isnt life often unglamorous and boring and disappointing? and i think thats the genius of this novel. to take a common man and make you love him because you realise that you and him arent unalike, that you too feel common.

but when you have the opportunity to see an entire life in front of you, such as william stoners, you realise that the beauty is in the little things. that the simple life, the quiet life, is significant. that the individual life is worth examining.

and it gives you hope and comfort to know that if the life of an average man is of value, then yours is too.

and there are no words to describe that.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,466 reviews3,632 followers
February 7, 2020
Career opportunities...
He saw the future in the institution to which he had committed himself and which he so imperfectly understood; he conceived himself changing in that future, but he saw the future itself as the instrument of change rather than its object.

William Stoner is a humble soldier of science, the one belonging to the majority of scholars. He is an outsider of life, honest and conscientious.
…he had gone through a kind of conversion, an epiphany of knowing something through words that could not be put in words…

When I think of William Stoner I imagine a scriptorium in a monastery and a monk copying the old musty vellums. The scriptor is long dead and gone but his manuscripts persist.
Profile Image for Matt.
936 reviews28.6k followers
July 9, 2021
“William Stoner entered the University of Missouri as a freshman in the year 1910, at the age of nineteen. Eight years later, during the height of World War I, he received his Doctor of Philosophy degree and accepted an instructorship at the same University, where he taught until his death in 1956. He did not rise above the rank of assistant professor, and few students remembered him with any sharpness after they had taken his courses. When he died his colleagues made a memorial contribution of a medieval manuscript to the University library. This manuscript may still be found in the Rare Books Collection, bearing the inscription: ‘Presented to the Library of the University of Missouri, in memory of William Stoner, Department of English. By his colleagues.’ An occasional student who comes upon the name may wonder idly who William Stoner was, but he seldom pursues his curiosity beyond a casual question…”
- John Williams, Stoner

Even if I had completely hated John Williams’s Stoner – and there were times while reading it that I thought I did – it would have been worth my time to pick it up. If nothing else, it is interesting, both in its content and its backstory.

Originally published in 1965, this tale of a decidedly average literature professor at the University of Missouri came and went without causing much of a ripple. In 1994, Williams died. Then, in 2006, the New York Review of Books reissued the novel, and it caught fire. Suddenly, critics were calling it “the greatest novel you’ve never heard of.” It became a surprise bestseller in Europe. It helped make the case for John Williams as one of America’s great authors.

For me, that was reason enough to give this a look, especially since its length (about 300 pages) does not require a huge investment of time.

Beyond its peculiar second life, though, I was intrigued by Stoner’s substance. According to an interview given by Williams, this is an “escape into reality,” a portrait of a man’s life shorn of the usual dramatic flourishes found in fiction. The eponymous central figure, William Stoner, is not a brave soldier, brilliant lawyer, or dashing doctor; he does not go on great adventures; he is not part of a love triangle; he does not stand up for the little guy, battle evil, or change the world. He is not, in other words, the typical shoulders upon which you would rest a novel.

From the start, Williams almost dares you to keep reading. His introduction to Stoner, excerpted above, is not only unsentimental, it aggressively downplays the protagonist’s very existence. Williams is essentially telling his audience in the very first pages that Stoner is not worth reading about. This is sort of an anti-hook, a bit of reverse psychology that – in its own way – is as effective as “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” or “Call me Ishmael.”

Like Stoner himself, Stoner is unpretentious and unfussy. There are no narrative tricks, twists, or turns. The plot is simply Stoner’s life, followed in chronological order in unadorned prose, from his entrance into college until his death. Nothing extraordinary happens. The First World War rages, but Stoner does not enlist or get drafted, taking a curiously uncurious approach to a worldwide cataclysm. The Great Depression falls upon the country, but Stoner has tenure. He gets married to a woman who is a low-key terror (the inexplicable behavior of Stoner’s wife is one of the novel’s major weaknesses), finds himself entangled in the low-stakes, high-intensity politics of the English department (where he simply accepts all the bad hands he is dealt), and writes a book (which unsurprisingly amounts to a ho-hum product). There are moments of happiness, many more of sadness; there are some minor successes, but mostly modest failures.

As I mentioned above, the true fascination I had with this book is Williams’s handling of Stoner. The protagonist of a novel does not need to be a hero, or even a good guy. Typically, though, the main character is an agent of movement, driving things forward by taking action or making decisions.

Stoner is not like this.

Stoner is not even reactive. Instead, he is as passive as a rug. Things happen to him, and he just keeps going, head down. His governing principle for long stretches is indifference, which to me is one of life’s cardinal sins. There are times I wanted to throttle him. I wanted to shout at him. His marriage is a ruin, yet he takes no effort to fix it. His child desperately needs him as a parent, yet he sits on his hands. He makes an enemy at the college, and simply absorbs the abuse. He has a chance to grasp happiness, yet lets it walk right out the door. Stoner is fond of William Shakespeare’s sonnets, but just once I wanted him to read Dylan Thomas, to muster up the effort to rage – just a little – against the dying of the light. It never really happens.

Stoner’s stoicism is part of the reason Stoner has had such a vibrant reemergence on the literary scene. For the most part, I found it incredibly frustrating, as I have mentioned at length. At the same time, one of the ways I know a book is working for me is when a character gets me angry. I wouldn’t have found myself literally talking aloud to Stoner if I didn’t care about him. This is a real bit of wizardry on Williams’s part. Essentially, I found myself loving this mainly because of the audaciousness of the conceit that Stoner is worthy of a novel.

As I reached Stoner’s unexpectedly powerful conclusion, however, I found my reaction deepening. I thought of the oft-quoted lines from Lucius Annaeus Seneca, in his Moral Letters to Lucilius: “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” Having seen it so often, I have seldom paused to consider the line’s meaning. Stoner really forced me to ponder its implications.

The most frightening aspect of life is death, and this is an aspect that everyone must – at one time or another – meet head-on. To move forward in the face of this terrifying unknown is an underappreciated facet of humanity. By the end of Stoner’s journey, I began more and more to respect his quiet dignity, his tenaciously-held values, and his calm fearlessness at the precipice of eternity. For all Stoner’s many faults, Williams utterly convinced me – by the final page – that this man’s life was worthy of a tale.
Profile Image for Julie G.
897 reviews2,933 followers
October 24, 2016
I've read such an excessive amount of books, you might imagine I stumble upon treasures like Stoner every day. Ha! That's hilarious.

I read every day, and I discover through that process many good books and average books, but rarely do I find a life-altering gem such as this.

Stoner is one of those quiet, slow-paced novels that stabs you right in the heart with its painful, accurate knowledge about life and how most people live it. Yes, it's sad but true; the average person will have a less than stellar childhood, a complicated partnership and end up with a career or a job rather than a youthful dream fulfilled.

Yes, too many people live rather unremarkable lives, and far too many of them suffer, too.

Yet. . . sometimes the snow falls quietly over your little corner of the world, and you feel completely blanketed by its peace. . . and, sometimes a tree in autumn spontaneously drops its leaves just upon you and you look up at the sky in unparalled wonder. . . and, sometimes a small child reaches out to touch your arm in trust and comfort and you realize the awe of your responsibility, that someone so precious and pure loves you, exactly as you are.

And, that is how this book is. You can't rush it. You need to embrace the moments where you gasp a bit or your eyes fill up with tears, or you feel filled with a hot rage over the injustices that fill this everyman's life.

If you loved Edith Wharton's "Ethan Frome" or Kent Haruf's "Eventide," or Graham Greene's "The End of the Affair," then you probably have the heart and the literary taste for this type of slow-moving, deeply-penetrating novel.
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,447 followers
September 25, 2023
Se poate întîmpla ca o carte excelentă să treacă neobservată și de critici, și de public? Am mai pus cîndva această întrebare și cred că am răspuns negativ. Să discutăm însă și despre o excepție.

Cînd s-a tipărit prima ediție, în 1965, romanul lui John Williams nu a stîrnit nici un interes. S-au vîndut cam o mie de exemplare (poate 1500, poate 2000), ceea ce pentru Statele Unite (și spațiul anglo-saxon) este foarte puțin. Criticii au ignorat cartea. Și lumea a uitat-o. Într-un cuvînt: autorul și cartea lui n-au avut noroc.

Și-au amintit brusc de ea, ca printr-o intuiție bizară, editorii de la New York Review Books Classics și au retipărit-o în 2003, apoi în mai multe rînduri, în 2006, în 2013. Din prudență, autorul murise în 1994, la 71 de ani.

În 2013, brusc, Stoner a devenit cartea anului, cel mai căutat roman, capodopera pierdută și regăsită, un bestseller incontestabil: 164.000 de exemplare vîndute în cîteva luni. Criticii au sărit ca arși. Recenzii peste recenzii. Investigații. Nedumeriri. Anchete: cum s-a putut întîmpla această nedreptate? Cine e vinovatul?

Un răspuns isteț este greu de formulat. Pînă acum n-am găsit unul. Să constați că Stoner este un titlu neatractiv, alb, mi se pare insuficient. Să afirmi că romanul e pesimist și că americanii nu gustă poveștile deprima(n)te, la fel. Cu siguranță, deși a fost sublimă, promovarea cărții pur și simplu a lipsit.

Erori de apreciere se fac mereu. Judecata de gust e nesigură. Oricine poate greși. Numai Dumnezeu e infailibil. Așa se spune. În 1965, au greșit aproape toți. Exegeții au fost cuprinși pesemne de o ciudată orbire. Cititorii de somnolență. Acum și unii, și alții încearcă să-și spele păcatele. Își fac mea culpa. Văd în John Williams un prozator remarcabil. Ceea ce este neîndoios.

Închei cu un titlu din The New York Times: „You Should Seriously Read ‘Stoner’ Right Now”. Dacă amînăm și de această dată, peste alți cincizeci de ani va fi cu adevărat tîrziu și inutil. Citiți cu atenție Stoner fix acum!
July 15, 2023
Reread July 2023;

It hit harder the third time. I read the last 30 pages this morning and my eyes were unable to stay dry. So painful to read and yet so beautiful to immerse myself in.

Reread January 2023;

I would never have thought that a story detailing a professor's life could have such a huge impact on me.

This experience was better than my first read through, but honestly, my heart is in pieces. I'm so glad my Mum recommended this to me! Phenomenal writing, beautiful, real and sometimes brutal scenes of one man's life and you're left with one woman in tears over here in the UK. Thank you, John Williams for producing one of my favourite works of literacy, and probably one of the best reads of my life to date.

July 2019:

My heart is deliciously heavy tonight, here in the UK, and it feels damn good! Stoner, is the type of book that I would put to the bottom of my to-read list, purely because I thought the cover and the blurb were dull. Stoner, is the type of book I'd look at, then tell it I'd get to it in a few years or so. Stoner, is a book my Mum recommended to me two years ago, and now I'm sitting here, my eyes still moist with tears, and I'm asking myself the question "Why didn't I pick this up earlier?"

This book has took the very breath from my body, and if one knows me well enough, you'll realise that is a pretty extensive task to take on. I feel revived, and I believe that this book was just waiting, waiting for the right moment to come into my life.

We follow Stoner, our main character, as he makes his way through life, quietly, but with assertiveness, making decisions that shape his life, for better, or for worse. From any way in which I looked at Stoner, he didn't meet the expectations of which he should have, but it was his interesting but difficult life, that kept me immersed in this, until the very last page.

I believe that as the story progresses, Stoner progresses in his ability to be the person he'd always wanted to be, and that, as a writer, is a masterful thing to achieve.

It distresses me actually, that this book for the most part, is going unnoticed, and isn't doing as well as a book with a happy ending and the promise of a hero, for instance. Stoner is a real life account, of a rather ordinary individual, but God, it broke my heart.
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
792 reviews
June 11, 2023

Albrecht Dürer: Job and his Wife

Vintage books seem to specialise in producing beautiful paperback editions of titles that have been out of print or have only recently been translated into English. I have a small collection of their red-spined covers sitting on my shelves. They all have something in common apart from the red spines; they are books I may read again sometime in my life because of the quality of the writing, the depth of the characterisation and the overall worth of the contents. They are books that won’t date and that I won’t outgrow.

A friend placed this Vintage book in my hands last week and said, you must read it and tell me what you think. I was curious as I’d noticed that Stoner, although written decades ago, had been getting a lot of attention recently and I was glad of the opportunity to read it at last. I put everything else aside and read the book over a short space of time, unusual for me as I often dip in and out of several books at the same time.
My edition has an introduction by John McGahern. McGahern is a writer I respect a lot. I’d love to see his books getting more attention—a re-release of McGahern's works would allow a new generation of readers to see how he evolved over time, how he kept rubbing away at a small number of themes until they were as smooth and perfect as a stone polished by the sea.
Smooth but not flat.
The word flat occurs to me because I found Williams' writing flat from the beginning, not flat as in spare or plain but flat as in lifeless.

The early part is a familiar story, the boy from the farm goes to college and meets a teacher who helps him discover his life’s passion. At that point, I thought: oh, wonderful, the author has been using a flat style in the early part so that he can provide a contrast in the section where his hero, William Stoner, discovers the pleasures of literature. And yes, there is huge promise in the device the author uses of having his hero awaken via a Shakespeare sonnet. But, although Stoner goes on to read widely, eventually teaching in a college, his literary journey doesn’t influence the language of the novel very much—there is no interplay between Williams’ writing and Stoner’s literary evolution. It is as if Williams set out to avoid literary resonances, in fact I found more biblical parallels than literary ones.

But to continue with the literature issues, there are a few examples of Stoner’s teaching skills inserted into the text, and though he does sound like a very dedicated teacher, the extracts from lectures and the questions he puts to a student relating to poetry didn't match with what we are told of Stoner's passion for literature. But I did find it interesting and clever that each time he gazed through a window, or better still, opened a window, the language soared and I was breathing in fresh air alongside the main character. What joy! The few times that happened, I silently willed John Williams to keep the window open. But, except for some moving writing near the end, he preferred not to.

John McGahern quotes Williams in the introduction: when asked if literature is written to be entertaining, he answers, “Absolutely. My God, to read without joy is stupid”. I wouldn’t put it quite like that but there is truth in what Williams says. And a large part of the pleasure of reading comes from the quality of an author's writing. It’s interesting to note that I’ve struggled to write this review. I’ve been asking myself why it is so difficult to write about Stoner and the answer may lie in Williams’ own words: when reading is a joy, the response to it is effortless, the review tumbles out, inspired by the words we’ve read. When there’s no joy, making a response is an enormous effort. However, since I rarely have to make such an effort (as I usually find reading a joy), I’ll challenge myself a little more.

I’ve concentrated on the writing because it’s always more important for me than the plot but I do pay attention to how the plot and the characters are handled. Early in the novel, Williams decides to have Stoner choose a wife. So Stoner goes to a shop and sees one he likes and decides to buy her straight away.
No. I’m joking, of course. And can I point out here that there is absolutely no humour in this book so my joke is out of place. Except it isn’t, because that’s more or less the way Stoner picks his wife. He sees Edith once and decides to marry her. She has no say whatever and Williams even stresses her passive reluctance. So the business is conducted between the girl's father and the prospective son-in-law. But Williams doesn’t plan on presenting this catalogue bride as a victim. Oh, no, the hero is the only victim in every episode of the long saga which is his life (I used the word 'hero' because Williams said in the interview quoted in the introduction that Stoner “is a real hero”).

I mentioned biblical echoes earlier. Stoner is like a Job figure; every possible plague is thrown at him, and his enemies are horribly diabolical, but he endures all of his ‘undeserved trials’ with the utmost patience and rarely fights back.
That would be fine if he alone were the victim. But he is not the only victim. Apart from his wife, whose character remains one-dimensional throughout and her extraordinary ‘evil’ nature unexplained, there is a daughter who becomes the true victim in the story. The author fails to underline that his hero never makes a real effort to save his daughter. I’m not blaming him for allowing the daughter to be sacrificed but I am asking the author to be aware of his main character’s failure to save her. It is never acknowledged. So how can he be a hero?

Stoner also stands by when a young women he becomes involved with is sacked because of him. Although other reasons are given, the author implies that Stoner can't save her because he has to save his daughter instead. Except that he doesn't save his daughter.

There were a few occasions when I wondered if Williams was really aware of what he was doing in this novel: the way he has Stoner choose his wife; the way he handles the daughter story; the loose ends that are scattered throughout, and finally, the enemies he chooses for his 'hero' (apart from the ‘evil’ wife).
The main enemy is a work colleague called Lomax. There are no reasons given for Lomax’s unrelenting attacks upon Stoner. Both Lomax and the student he engages to help in the vicious attacks on Stoner, have physical disabilities, so one of the implications of their unexplained vendetta has to be jealousy of Stoner’s physical strength. I found that disturbing. John McGahern, in the introduction, refrains from commenting on this aspect of the novel, simply stating that the portrait of Hollis Lomax is “the most complex” in the entire book. McGahern doesn’t really discuss the story in any depth. Instead, he writes an introduction that is little more than a summary as if Williams were an old friend for whom he was doing a favour.

I mentioned loose ends or red herrings so I had better deal with them before I finish. Stoner refuses to join the army in 1917 when the United States declares war on Germany. His friends join up and one of them, Finch, accuses Stoner of letting everyone down. While we, the readers, might agree with Stoner’s decision, we worry that it will come back to haunt him especially as Finch returns in glory and becomes the dean of the faculty where Stoner teaches. But that threat is never realised, and surprisingly so, considering all the other much more unlikely plagues that fall on Stoner’s head.

There is some mystery implied about Stoner’s wife and her relationship with her parents but that too is never explained, a big gap since everything about her needs further development. McGahern says she is in the tradition of the ‘beautiful, unstable’ heroine found in O’Neill, Tenessee Williams, Faulkner and Scott Fitzgerald. I can’t imagine that any of those writers created a character as paper-thin as Edith Stoner.
A further loose end is Stoner's first literature teacher, a man called Archer Sloane. He is given a significant role in the beginning but is not exploited very much afterwards. That is a real pity as he was my favourite character.

The front cover of my copy contains a sticker which reads:
    The greatest novel you’ve never read

If this is the greatest novel I had never read, what am I going to do for the rest of my life?
I may have to take up bridge.
Profile Image for Fernando.
685 reviews1,127 followers
September 9, 2023
"A los cuarenta y tres años, William Stoner aprendió lo que otros, muchos más jóvenes, habían aprendido antes que el: que la persona que uno ama al principio no es la persona que uno ama al final, y que el amor no es un fin sino un proceso mediante el cual una persona intenta conocer a otra."

Entrañable. Esa es la palabra exacta para este gran libro. Stoner es un personaje entrañable, al igual que su historia y el libro en su conjunto.
He leído este libro con voracidad y pasión y comprendo por qué ya es considerado de culto en goodreads y uno de los acontecimientos literarios del año en mi país, Argentina.
Cuesta creer que un autor como John Williams haya pasado desapercibido por tantos años. Pareciera como que en cierta forma sufrió casi el mismo olvido que Stoner en algunos pasajes de la historia que este autor escribió.
Este autor maravilloso, dueño de una prosa agradable y simple nos transporta rápidamente en la historia de este singular personaje que tal vez sea uno de los más queribles de la literatura puesto que es imposible no consustanciarse con su mundo y las situaciones que va atravesando a medida que pasan los años.
Nada es fácil para Stoner desde niño. Soportará una infancia dura, difícil y sumado a ello sus padres, fríos y distantes, como muchas de las personas que conocerá a lo largo de sus seis décadas.
Stoner rápidamente entenderá cuál es lugar en el mundo, por eso buscará encontrar su ideal cambiando lo que se le impone por la elección de lo que le apasiona y que será lo que lo acompañe hasta el final de sus días: la literatura.
Los libros, ”Esos amigos que nunca decepcionan”, como decía Thomas Carlyle, serán su refugio y su objetivo de vida.
A partir de que decide ser profesor, conocerá las cosas más sorprendentes que la vida puede darle a una persona, tanto buenas como malas. Y luego vendrán las personas. Y por su vida desfilarán el viejo Archer Sloane, quien le dará la oportunidad de su vida y será su mentor de juventud. Conocerá a sus amigos, algunos de toda la vida, como Gordon Finch y otros transformados en un agridulce recuerdo, como Dave Masters.
También conocerá la rivalidad en su contraparte, Hollis Lomax, una especie de alter ego que no lo dejará en paz hasta el final de sus días universitarios. No será el único que le haga la vida imposible: el caso de Charles Walker lo fogueará como profesor y como ser humano.
El destino le acercará a Edith Bostwick, esa alta y delgada rubia de ojos claros será su compañera y la encargada de sepultar la timidez de su infancia y enturbiar sus años futuros. Con los años vendrá Grace, su hija y habiendo pasado unos cuantos años, este hombre tendrá su propia aventura amorosa con Katherine Driscoll; pero más allá de los avatares que la vida le depara, Stoner jamás claudicará ni distorsionará su esencia.
Stoner es genuino, único, entrañable…
Y puedo afirmar que personajes de estas características no abundan mucho en la literatura.
Profile Image for Pakinam Mahmoud.
813 reviews3,499 followers
September 6, 2023
بجد والله🙄هي دي بقي ستونر..
صحيح لولا إختلاف الأذواق لبارت الكتب...!

الرواية عبارة عن قصة حياة الشخص اللي إسمه ويليام ستونر معرفش هو شخصية حقيقية ولا لأ وغير مهتمة إني أعرف الحقيقة...
شخصية مملة،سلبية،معندوش أي حاجة مميزة ،لا في شخصيته ولا في حياته ولا هو ولا حتي في كل الناس اللي حواليه...
ليه أضيع أنا وقت من حياتي عشان أقرأ هذا البؤس والملل..!!!

هو أنا ليه بقرأ أساساً؟
أنا بقرأ عشان أستفاد أو عشان أستمتع أو عشان أعيش حلم جميل أو حياة مختلفة مش عارفة أعيشها في الحقيقة فبعيشها جوة الكتب...
ايه بقي يا أستاذ ستونر اللي انا استفدته من معاليك! بجد ولا حاجة...دة حتي مفيش جملة ملهمة وقفت عندها وخلتني أفكر فيها...
بس عشان مبقاش كدابة..في دي👇

"كان أحياناً يشعر أنه أحد أنواع النباتات،يتوق إلي شئ ما-إلي الشعور بالألم حتي-لينخر فيه،ليبقيه علي قيد الحياة.." !!
أنا مش مريضة ضغط بس متأكدة لو قست ضغط دلوقتي حلاقيه عالي..!

حسبي الله ونعم الوكيل وأهلاً بالمعارك من محبي ستونر..😏
Profile Image for Maria Headley.
Author 80 books1,566 followers
August 30, 2007
Devastating novel of academia, unfulfilled hope, and a life not-entirely-lived. Gorgeous writing, heartbreaking plot, and if you're a fan, as I tend to be, of stories set in the dark halls of libraries and universities, this is one to read. The love story within this book is suddenly out-of-nowhere rapturous, and the marriage is brittle, delicate, insensible and perfectly done. The book feels so modern, though the bulk of the action is set in the 30's and 40's. I kept stopping to check that this was true - the love affair, in particular, feels like something that might be happening this moment in an office at, say, Middlebury. Stoner's marriage, in contrast, is painfully frozen in time and in the cultural expectations of women in the early part of the last century, but even so, Stoner's wife's personality feels very real to me, and the way it is written about feels revolutionary. Speaking of revolutionary: I don't know why this book doesn't stand with, say, Revolutionary Road, as a massive classic. By the end, I was holding a hand over my mouth, because I kept moaning in sympathy for poor Stoner. I never felt that way reading Yates - whose characters, though foiled totally by their self-involvement, seem somehow to deserve what they get. Reading this felt more like reading someone like Andre Dubus - full of people making destructive choices, but nevertheless, you feel for them, and feel their humanity the whole time you're reading.
June 21, 2018
Θα ξεκινήσω με μια εικόνα που δημιούργησα διαβάζοντας το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο.
Και τονίζω πως τη δημιούργησα εγώ την εικόνα διότι ο συγγραφέας το μόνο που έκανε ήταν να λέει στον αναγνώστη χωρίς να δείχνει.

Αν οι λέξεις σου δεν χτίζουν χαρακτήρες και πλοκή,
αν η γραφή σου απλώς μιλάει χωρίς να δημιουργεί, χωρίς να περνάει στον αναγνώστη μια διαδραστική σχέση αποκλείοντας κάθε είδους επιτήδευση, τότε συμπερασματικά καταλήγουμε στο:συγχαρητήρια για την προσπάθεια μα αποτύχατε πανηγυρικά.

Η εικόνα που είχα συνεχώς μπροστά μου ήταν ένα σπίτι -που συμβολίζει ολόκληρη τη ζωή ενός ανθρώπου - το οποίο τυλίγεται στις φλόγες -ουσιαστικά και μεταφορικά- της απάθειας,
και ο ιδιοκτήτης του σπιτιού βλέποντας την φωτιά να ξεκινάει απο σπίθες και να καταλήγει σε ολοκληρωτική καταστροφή έχει πάρει μπογιά και πινέλο και το βάφει.

Η φωτιά δυναμώνει, κατατρώει και αφανίζει ό,τι έχεις δημιουργήσει μα εσύ στωικά συνεχίζεις να βάφεις τα αποκαΐδια μέχρι να πεθάνεις(μεταφορικά) απο ασφυξία και καθολικά εγκαύματα.
Και το χειρότερο απο όλα είναι πως περνάει καλά με την όλη διαδικασία διότι ο ίδιος μένει αλώβητος.

Έτσι, λιτά, απλά, απέριττα θα μπορούσα να τελειώσω το σχολιασμό μου, μα θέλω να υπεισέλθω σε λεπτομέρειες για να εκφράσω τη συναισθηματική νέκρα της πεζογραφίας και τη μοιρολατρική θλίψη που σκορπίζεται απλόχερα σε όλο το βιβλίο.

Ο Στόουνερ είναι ένα φτωχό και στερημένο αγόρι που κατάγεται απο αγροτική οικογένεια.
Οι γονείς του παλεύουν μέχρι τελικής πτώσης για την επιβίωση και δεν γνωρίζουν τίποτε πέρα απο τον μόχθο, τις στερήσεις και την στείρα ανταμοιβή μιας άγονης ζωής.
Παρόλα αυτά στέλνουν το γιο τους μετά απο παρότρυνση άλλων, να σπουδάσει γεωπόνος στο πανεπιστήμιο.

Ο Στόουνερ δίνει μεγάλο αγώνα δουλεύοντας και σπουδάζοντας βασικά, χωρίς να αισθάνεται το λόγο που βασανίζεται σωματικά και πνευματικά.

Όταν κάποια τυχαία στιγμή στο πανεπιστήμιο ανακαλύπτει πως τον καθορίζει ως ύπαρξη η ανώτερη σπουδή και μελέτη της αγγλικής φιλολογίας και της μεσαιωνικής λογοτεχνίας με αρχαία ελληνικά, λατινικά και ρωμαϊκά έργα τέχνης, αποφασίζει να ακολουθήσει ακαδημαϊκή καριέρα ως καθηγητής πανεπιστημίου.

Και απο δω και μετά αρχίζει μια ζωή ήρεμης απελπισίας.

Ό,τι συμβαίνει στην πορεία της ιστορίας του Στόουνερ είναι καθαρά και απόλυτα οι συνέπειες των δικών του επιλογών.
Τις περισσότερες φορές βέβαια οι επιλογές του είναι τυχαίες ή καθοδηγούμενες απο άλλους καθώς ο ίδιος είναι ένα τραγικό μίζερο και μοιρολατρικό άτομο με πλήρη απάθεια και μηδενική συναισθηματική νοημοσύνη.
Ακόμη κι αν δεχτώ πως αταβιστικά ήταν στο αίμα του η απάθεια και η έλλειψη ενσυναίσθησης δεν γίνεται να λατρεύεις και να μελετάς με εμβρίθεια τα έργα παγκόσμιας λογοτεχνίας και να μην αλλάζεις φύσει θέσει την κοσμοθεωρία σου.
Απλά δε γίνεται. Ειναι αφελές και ανόητο.

Επομένως καταλήγουμε στο συμπέρασμα πως το ήθελε όλο αυτό το αδρανές και τραγικό. Το ευχαριστιόταν το μεμψίμοιρο.

Στη συνέχεια κάνει έναν πλήρως αποτυχημένο γάμο με μια στεγνή, υστερικά καταθλιπτική γυναίκα απο επιλογή του.
Φυσικά ο συγγραφέας φροντίζει να μας παρουσιάσει πολύ επιδερμικά το χαρακτήρα της συζύγου και τους λόγους που αντιδράει τοσο τοξικά στο γάμο της.

Θα ήθελα να μάθω τι ένιωθε και πως σκεφτόταν όταν βυθίστηκε στο μαρτύριο της συμβίωσης με έναν άνδρα που ποτέ δεν αγάπησε και δεν αγαπήθηκε.

Αποκτάει δυο επιστήθιους φίλους ζωής,συμφοιτητές απο το πανεπιστήμιο. Αυτοί οι δυο χαρακτήρες μαζί με τον Στόουνερ ειναι τα μόνα πρόσωπα που επέλεξε ο συγγραφέας να μας αναλύσει και να χτίσει πάνω τους ολοκληρωμένους χαρακτήρες με σκέψη, νόηση και αντιδράσεις.
Όλοι οι άλλοι ήρωες του βιβλίου απλώς παίζουν βοηθητικό ρόλο με ανεξερεύνητο ψυχισμό περιστοιχίζοντας προσδιοριστικά τον ήρωα της τραγωδίας.

Αποκτάει ένα παιδί και εκεί φαίνεται αρχικά να εκφράζει κάποια ανθρώπινα συναισθήματα αγάπης και ευτυχίας. Αρχικά, διότι μόλις η σύζυγος του αποφασίζει να τον αποκόψει απο την κόρη του και να διαχειριστεί τα πάντα μέσα στην οικογένεια ο Στόουνερ απλά βολεύεται, το δέχεται αναντίρρητα και συνεχίζει το έργο της διδασκαλίας και της συγγραφής βιβλίων.

Πέρασε μέσα απο δυο παγκόσμιους πολέμους και τη μεγάλη Ύφεση στην Αμερική χωρίς να στρατεύτεί ή να βιώσει στο ελάχιστο τα δεινά που γράφτηκαν στις σελίδες της ιστορίας με αίμα. Συνεχίζει απτόητος την καθημερινότητα του μέσα στην απολαυστική δυστυχία του.
Μέσα απο το άσυλο του πανεπιστημίου βλέπει τον έξω κόσμο και να γεννιέται, να ζει, να αλλάζει, να αγωνίζεται, να πεθαίνει σαν να παρακολουθεί ταινία καθαρά ενημερωτικού και ίσως εκπαιδευτικού χαρακτήρα.
Γιορτάζει πολλές στιγμές προσωπικής ευτυχίας μέσα απο τη διδασκαλία και την μελέτη.
Μόνο απο κει αποκομίζει χαρά απο τη ζοφερή ζωή του. Διδάσκει με σθένος και ζέση λογοτεχνικούς θησαυρούς της ανθρώπινης δημιουργίας και δεν καταφέρνει να διδαχθεί πως δεν παρατάμε αμαχητί οτιδήποτε στραβό ή κακό προκύψει στη ζωή μας.
Παραμένει φυγόπονος και μεμψίμοιρος.

Δίνει πραγματικό αγώνα στο πανεπιστήμιο και εκεί ήταν μια απο τις στιγμές που ειλικρινά χάρηκα και αναθάρρησα με τη στάση του.
Παραμένει εγκάθετος στη θέση του σχετικά με κάποιον φοιτητή που θεωρεί πως δεν πληροί τις προδιαγραφές φοίτησης και προσπαθεί δυναμικά να τον απομακρύνει απο το πνευματικό και ιερό χώρο του πανεπιστημίου.

Επιμένει ακόμη κι όταν αυτή του η απόφαση δημιουργεί άσχημες επιπτώσεις σε όλη την πορεία της καριέρας του.
Κι ενώ εδώ θέλει και παλεύει με ήθος και αρχές για τα πιστεύω του απομακρύνεται σταθερά απο την κόρη του η οποία παραπαίει ανάμεσα σε κατάλοιπα και ψυχολογικά σύνδρομα.
Όταν του ανακοινώνει πως είναι έγκυος απο κάποιον συμφοιτητή που δεν γνωρίζει καλά καλά, ο Στόουνερ αφήνει τις σκοτούρες και τα βάρη στην σύζυγο του και δέχεται τα πάντα τρέχοντας να κλειστεί στο γραφείο του για να συγγράψει το έργο του.

Το παιδί του αποκτάει ενα γιο, χάνει στον πόλεμο τον σύζυγο της και καταντάει αλκοολική. Εδώ ο τραγικός πατέρας και πάλι δεν χάνει την απαθέστατη στάση του.
Αφήνει το παιδί του έρμαιο και δεν βλέπει σχεδόν ποτέ το εγγόνι του.
Σε διαφορετική περίπτωση θα έπρεπε να αλλάξει την τακτοποιημένη του ευτυχία και να παλέψει για τους αγαπημένους του.

Ακόμη κι όταν σε κάποια φάση της μεσήλικης ζωής του ερωτεύεται και παθιάζεται με μια μικρότερη γυναίκα απο το χώρο του πανεπιστημίου δεν χάνει την κυρίαρχη παθητικότητα του.
Στην πρώτη δυσκολία και αφού έχει νιώσει έστω για λίγο την απόλυτη ψυχική και σεξουαλική μέθεξη προτιμάει να χωρίσει απο εκείνη παρά να ξεφύγει απο την δυστυχισμένη μοιρολατρία που τον τρέφει.

Ένας εκ του ασφαλούς και κατ’επιλογήν δυστυχισμένος κακομοίρης, που ειναι εντούτοις τακτοποιημένος οικογενειακά, επαγγελματικά και κοινωνικά,δεν μπορεί σε καμία περίπτωση να με κάνει να αισθανθώ κάτι άλλο εκτός απο αντιπάθεια, αδιαφορία και οργή.
Συνοψίζοντας δυο κυρίως συμπεράσματα έκαναν την τελική αποτίμηση μου αρνητική.

Πρώτον : Όλες οι ακαδημαϊκές επιδιώξεις του Στόουνερ - εκτός ελαχίστων στιγμών - παρουσιάζονται απο το συγγραφέα εκ διαμέτρου αντίθετες και ξεχωριστές σε σχέση με το κενό της μίζερης ζωής του.

Δεύτερον: ο Στόουνερ βιώνει θετικά συναισθήματα σχετικά με την ενασχόληση του με τη λογοτεχνία.
Όμως, κάθε πληροφορία που βιώνει απο την ανάγνωση και τη γραφή της μεγαλειώδους λογοτεχνίας που γεννήθηκε απο ελληνικές,λατινικές και αγγλικές παραδόσεις, δεν καταφέρνει να τον υποκινήσει, να τον ενθαρρύνει ή να του προτείνει να προβεί σε σημαντικές ή ασήμαντες προσαρμογές στην προσωπική του ζωή. Παραμένει άβουλος, αδρανής και κακομοίρης.
Πεθαίνει απο καρκίνο γαλήνια στο σπιτι του κρατώντας στα χέρια του το πρώτο του βιβλίο.
Όντας ετοιμοθάνατος το παιδί του τον επισκέπτεται
μία μόνο φορά για του πει, περαστικά, θα το ξεπεράσεις.
Καθρέφτης είναι η δράση μας ή η αδράνεια μας που δείχνει πως θα μας αντιμετωπίσουν οι άλλοι.

Ένας συγγραφέας επομένως συμπερασματικά,καταλήγει πως η ανάγνωση της λογοτεχνίας δεν μας επιτρέπει, δε μας επιβάλλει να κατανοήσουμε σαφέστερα και πιο προσεκτικά ή συμπονετικά, να σκεφτούμε και να αναλάβουμε δράση στη δική μας ζωή.
Τότε ποιο είναι το νόημα;
Φιλολογική ή σύμφωνα με τους κανόνες γραμματικής και συντακτικού η προσέγγιση μας;

Αυτό το βιβλίο σίγουρα δεν ήταν για εμένα.


Καλή ανάγνωση.
Πολλούς ασπασμούς.
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