Chris Bischof
Chris Bischof asked:

It's a remarkably good book that has developed a cultish following. What is it that makes Stoner so compelling?

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Madeleine Gadd Because it reminds us that ordinary people who live ordinary lives can have a beautiful story to tell too.
Mark Like many reviewers I have returned for a second reading, within twelve months of completing my first, and after recommending this wonderful book to so many of my friends.

One friend's response surprised me, "I didn't like William Stoner' as he was so feeble' - she went on, ' he is a willing victim, and loses his daughter and his career, and allows himself to be beaten by his horrible manipulative wife, and humiliated in the work place, and he doesn't stand up for what he believes in'

But William Stoner stands for 'Everyman' doesn't he ! And in his struggles and misfortunes we see the way a life is put together and inevitably must unravel. He stands for the oppressed, the downtrodden and the defeated, and yet his insights illuminate the biggest lessons in life :

“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.”

Cecily Painful beauty and agonising plausibility.
Carol Sklenicka For me it was the depth of Stoner's feeling conveyed by the absolute purity of the writing.
aPriL does feral sometimes I think the author's insights about how a character's anticipated life can feel smaller, poisoned or made impossible by subsequent choices, fears and mistakes, yet everything in motion continues mechanically onward despite those feelings are universally felt by most people at some point in all walks of life.
Fred Bushor This is an honest, earnest book and beautifully written. Those who believe in 'status' and 'victory' may find themselves disappointed, but for those who wish to see how life is lived honestly, modestly and without regret - read this book. Personally, I wish every man would; the last few chapters will test their capacity for self-reflection like nothing else.
Kevin It's about love in general and in particular. Parental love, love for the job, passionate love and failed love. And in a truly realistic sense rather than the overly romantic Hollywood way we are used to.
Mitchell McKee This books heralds the ordinary and normality, in which Stoner suffers the good and the bad of a simple, absolutely normal life.

But in this normality, this exposed simplicity, we can see an everyday life, that many of us know, unfold and we can appreciate the small victories and the resilience after defeat.

It's an intelligent yet simple book trying to get at a bigger idea that normal lives can be interesting, and at the end of one's life, one should not focus on regret, but on one's accomplishments, and the very fact that you lived a life, because simply living and overcoming small obstacles is a pretty big accomplishment we all look over. Stay gold, Stoner, stay gold.
Rachel We all tend to read novels that have a hero or an extraordinary event or problem that is the focus and is what captivates us. Stoner is the beautiful telling of reality - it is simple, at times frustrating and sad and others exciting and happy. Sometimes we read to escape our day to day lives, but Stoner so wonderfully reminds us that our 'mundane' lives are worth telling too.
Sasaki I'm not a native speaker, but what did it for me was how the story of a whole life is told in such terse language, with such narrative distance. It left "space" for me as a reader, for my imagination and identification with the story.
Donald Jans For me Stoner is a reminder that actively expressing your wants and needs is essential for a happy life. Stoner is the voice of millions of stoned faced expressionless people who expect you to read their mind...or not, and the eventual fallout from that behavior, which he accepts full responsibility for in the end.
Abbyb1 I think for me the fact that Stoner stumbles upon his true passion - and the only one that doesn't eventually leave him - merely by chance. He takes a literature course as part of the required course load in his study of college agriculture and then magically his life is transformed forever. I find this to be true of so many true "aha" moments in life. One would think that a wedding or the birth of a child would be the most remarkable moments in life - and they often are - but sometimes, almost by accident, something rich comes along completely out of the blue.
Trish Perry
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Erich Sysak I share his love for the academic setting: the library and shelves, the students, the scarred tables and chairs. The pace of life and a kind of melancholy that blankets everything at a university. A kind of poetic strangeness and morose beauty.
Maria Jaber Stoner reminded me of all the beautiful people that led an ordinary life, yet remained special and precious by specifically doing so. It almost forces you to accept that there maybe no need after all to an extra ordinary achievement or a big story for your life to be precious. I loved Stoner so much and was left thinking of him often whenever i am faced with a troubling decision.
Rob Robinson We all can see something of ourselves in the tireless, somewhat boring, but nevertheless honorable life of the main character. The book spoke to me from the first lines. I believe the author is terribly underrated and I believe the book is more about his life than he tended to admit. His western is good also. I didn't care for historical fiction about Augustus, but that may have just been because it was written as journal entries which is not my cup of tea.
Sophie Gateclou Stoner's life is quietly extraordinary. Right from the beginning of his life he defies the odds: he leaves his agricultural background and goes to university, where he is discovered and guided by an astute university teacher who notices Stoner's love for literature and quietly recommends he switches from agricultural studies to study literature.

He becomes an exceptional English teacher (though that is never recognised) and twice in his life he discovers another love: the deep love for his daughter, Grace, and for another human being, Katherine. That kind of love between a man and a woman is rare. It was not just opportunistic, or lust, it was passion. Two human beings recognising themselves in each other.

I was told this would be a sad book to read. Yes, this is a sad story in many part. He is downtrodden, he is humiliated (by Lomax), he is mercilessly bullied (by his wife), he slowly grows apart from his beloved daughter, he has to let go of his love for Katherine. But through it all I felt the quiet strength of a man who is living by his own principles, including the one of not joining up in WW1. He lets go of Katherine because he is protecting her. He is himself and in that he is free. That is quietly exceptional.
Kathy Because it reads like poetry. I've only just begun reading it and I can't seem to put it down. The writing makes me smile.
Betsy Lancaster After reading this several times I always come to some similar conclusions; it is about love indeed. Stoner has found a love that he didn't know even could exist growing up on a farm. His love for knowledge of language. It is truly remarkable to the lengths that he goes to enhance his knowledge, to try and share this with his students and his unwavering devotion to it that it does become his downfall in his marriage, but moreso at the university with Lomax. The love he has for his wife, or what he thought was love, doesn't bother him as long as he has his books and his writing. He is not ordinary in some sense; he was a very poor boy that never should have gone on to university, let alone achieve his doctoral status. His life is ordinary in the way that all of our lives are in going through the motions of life; people coming in and out of it and the sacrifices one makes to get by. Love, regret, joy, happiness, sadness are all wrapped up neatly in this beautifully written linear book of the life of a not-so-average guy living in an average world.
Aba Desi He takes a stoic approach to life that we can all learn from... despite the suffering he finds contentment.
CC Library
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