Lee's Reviews > Stoner

Stoner by John  Williams
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Oct 28, 2007

it was amazing
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Read in November, 2008

Thanks to the goodreaders (Matthew and Katie, particularly) who suggested this one. The ideal midpoint on the stylistic continuum. Blurbs talk of its "perfect novel"-ness, and somehow, amazingly, that's what I was thinking while reading: maybe the perfect traditional tone (attentive, steady, transparent prose that occasionally requires re-reading for savoring/remembering), a story perfectly paced, no gimmicks or catchy chapter titles or cleverness, and yet so deeply imagined and engaging thanks to character, setting, atmosphere, and the steady, readable, "anonymous American prose," as Mr. Conroy called it -- maybe that's what it is about this book -- it's an ideal example of "anonymous American prose"? Prose worthy of someone named "John Williams." Prose like this: "In his 43rd 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." The novel's keyword is "inimical," a befitting semi-studious word that's repeated three or four times toward the end, a subtle thing that almost feels heavy-handed in a book this well done -- a perfect word re: Stoner's academic/stoic asylum from the pettiness, cruelty, and disappointments of the world. Despite its "well done"-ness and "perfection," I was never nauseated by the craft on display -- and that's because the craft wasn't "on display" as much as absolutely "in service" of the story. Also, at the end, there's a beautiful trick that transforms the reader into Stoner. I miss the old lug already.
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Christy "In his 43rd 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."

Lovely review and thanks for reminding us of this fantastic line.


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