Maria Headley's Reviews > Stoner

Stoner by John  Williams
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Aug 27, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: next-to-the-bed
Read in August, 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.
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Reading Progress

03/01/2016 marked as: next-to-the-bed

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Shider Popov Great review. To be honest, the book threw me into introspection and examination of my own life. I think this story can serve as a warning.


Tania Excellent review


Chris Fine review, Maria.


message 4: by JS (new) - rated it 5 stars

JS Found Spoilers for the end.........

Maria--the end isn't tragedy but a life well-lived. He did what he loved. He found love with another. He does feel sad, but then he doesn't, looking outside his room, he feels a strength and sees his students passing by. When he picks up his own book, he feels a tingling throughout his own body. If you read the introduction in the NYRB book, you know that Williams called him "a real hero" and said, "I think he had a very good life." (xii)


Gayle Perfect review. Echo your thoughts entirely


Noreen Mcgrath This review sums up my own feelings about the book that I have found difficult to put into words. I found Stoner himself an almost tragic character but in reading another comment on this review I am reminded how much that analysis reflects my frustrations at lack of recognition rather than the characters own feelings about his life. He did in fact do what he loved ie teaching and appeared less frustrated by his lack of recognition by his peers than my own frustration on his behalf. There is no doubt that this book made me think about the nature of success. Perhaps Stoner's greatest success is his own ability to rise above the lack of peer recognition, to achieve his own aim of educating


J.c. completely agree


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