by John Williams

Paperback, 2003




New York : New York Review Books, c2003.


Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML: 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..… (more)

Media reviews

Part of “Stoner” ’s greatness is that it sees life whole and as it is, without delusion yet without despair. Stoner realizes at the last that he found what he sought at the university not in books but in his love and study of them, not in some obscure scholarly Grail but in its pursuit. His
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life has not been squandered in mediocrity and obscurity; his undistinguished career has not been mulish labor but an act of devotion. He has been a priest of literature, and given himself as fully as he could to the thing he loved. The book’s conclusion, such as it is—I don’t know whether to call it a consolation or a warning—is that there is nothing better in this life. The line, “It hardly mattered to him that the book was forgotten and served no use; and the question of its worth at any time seemed almost trivial,” is like the novel’s own epitaph. Its last image is of the book falling from lifeless fingers into silence.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member browner56
There is an old joke in academic circles that goes something like this: Q. Why is the political in-fighting at a university so nasty and bitter? A. Because the stakes are so low. I’m not sure how funny that actually is, but anyone who has spent any time on a college faculty can certainly attest
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to its veracity. There is no doubt that William Stoner, the unlikely protagonist of this oddly captivating novel, certainly can.

Stoner arrives at college to study agriculture in order to help on his family’s farm but quickly develops a love of literature that eventually carries him onto the English Department faculty and sets him on a lifelong path of teaching and learning. However, the introspective nature of that path leaves him ill-equipped to deal with realities around him: he is trapped in a loveless marriage to a woman who uses his cherished daughter as a weapon against him and he develops a powerful enemy on the faculty who makes most of his forty-year professional career difficult, to say the least. Even the one respite Stoner has from the soul-crushing nature of his existence—a touchingly rendered love affair that comes in middle age—falls victim to office politics.

This is a beautifully written book and one of the most compelling character studies that I have ever read. In telling Stoner’s life story, John Williams displays great compassion but never flinches as he chronicles all of the professional disappointments and missed opportunities that marked his hero’s personal life. Still, it would be wrong to conclude that this is a wholly sad novel. Williams’ spare and moving prose makes it clear that Stoner has led the life of his own choosing. That it isn’t quite the life we as readers would have wanted for him is ultimately a testament to how deeply the author makes us care.
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LibraryThing member Meredy
Six-word review: Powerful portrait in quiet, graceful prose.

Extended review: It's for a book like this that I try to leave room at the top. And the room at the top isn't quite enough for me; I'd have to downgrade a lot of my three-and-a-half-star ratings in order for a five to mean what this novel
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When I started Stoner, I didn't expect too much. Yes, I'd seen strong recommendations on LT, which happens to be the only place I'd ever heard of it. But despite praise featuring expressions such as "brilliant" and "beautiful" and "little gem," it didn't sound like much.

And in fact it seemed not only to begin slowly but to suggest to the reader, in an almost diffident tone, that the story of William Stoner isn't worth our attention; that the subject of this fictional biography is unremarkable, forgettable, and possibly downright dull. The opening offers no hooks or enticements and asks no indulgence of us. Here is the man, it seems to say: here he is, as he is, take him or leave him.

And yet the author did take him onward, for 275 more pages. And I followed willingly because somehow the character of Stoner caught my interest and held it, and the language of its rendering, in fine brushstrokes rather than in grand sweeps of color and line, was all the more affecting for its restraint. The scope and outer dimensions are small, but the interior expands like the unseen world on a microscopic slide.

If I hadn't happened to read this one just when I did, in parallel with the text of old Norse myths and a history of the thirteenth-century Icelandic poet who wrote many of them down, I might not have been led to see the figure of Stoner and the arc of his life as if projected onto a larger screen. But because of that unintended juxtaposition, I found myself recasting it in heroic terms, as a mythic struggle as potent as the tales of gods and monsters, cursed rings and dire potions, mighty battles, doom and death. Here, then, in a sepia-toned miniature, without fanfare, crests, or ribbons, we see a modest warrior who

• came of humble origin,
• labored diligently to gain a place in a select company,
• met his mentor,
• found his destiny,
• persevered in the long quest,
• championed the right,
• rescued the maiden,
• stood his ground in battle,
• vanquished the foe,
• had his heart cut out by the witch,
• won it back through the power of his steadfast faith,
• proved his valor by being faithful and true despite adversity,
• earned the fair lady's token,
• met his ultimate enemy clear-eyed and without fear,
• succumbed with dignity on the field of honor.

The battlefield is academe, and the knight is an unassuming professor and scholar of medieval literature. As for the stakes, they are personal and private, and we recognize them as the stuff of our own insignificant dramas, looming large only because we are so close to them. It's the very improbability of William Stoner as the hero of a twentieth-century novel that invests his unheralded quest with significance--the same significance that brings shape and contour to the myths of our own lives.
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LibraryThing member AMQS
This book is a quiet, compelling gem. It tells an intensely personal and honest story of a very unremarkable man, William Stoner, who grows up the only child of dirt-poor Missouri farmers in the late 1800s. He goes to college to study agronomy, but it is literature that captivates him, leading him
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into a world totally alien from that of his parents. There are brutally honest portraits of petty departmental conflicts, of an agonizingly strained marriage, of returning to his stoic, silent roots in the face of disappointments, betrayals, and tedium. So many moments I ached for Stoner, and I read the end of the book in tears. This was a very moving and satisfying read.

Stoner is surprised when his parents suggest college:

"His father shifted his weight on the chair. He looked at his thick, callused fingers, into the cracks of which soil had penetrated so deeply that it could not be washed away. He laced his fingers together and held them up from the table , almost in an attitude of prayer.
'I never had no schooling to speak of,' he said, looking at his hands. "I started working on a farm when I finished sixth grade. Never held with schooling when I was a young 'un. But now I don't know. Seems the land gets drier and harder to work every year; ain't rich like it was when I was a boy. County agent says they got new ideas, ways of doing things they teach you at the University. Maybe he's right. Sometimes when I'm working the field I get to thinking.' He paused. His fingers tightened upon themselves, and his clasped hands dropped to the table. 'I get to thinking --' He scowled at his hands and shook his head. 'You go on to the University come fall. Your ma and me will manage.'
It was the longest speech he had ever heard his father make. That fall he went to Columbia and enrolled in the University as a freshman in the College of Agronomy."

Stoner, so moved and passionate about literature, finds he cannot communicate that passion in the classroom:

"...when he began to address himself to his subject and his students, he found that his sense of wonder remained hidden within him. Sometimes, as he spoke to his students, it was as if he stood outside himself and observed a stranger speaking to a group assembled unwillingly; he heard his own flat voice reciting the materials he had prepared, and nothing of his own excitement came through that recitation."

Stoner endures years of personal and professional disappointment and marginalization, and becomes something of a department joke:

"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 to him by his 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."
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LibraryThing member yooperprof
(I have a very different viewpoint from most reviewers. This book was real drudgery for me, largely because I found the main character - really the only character in the book - to be extremely unsympathetic.)

Do you want to know what a passive-aggressive college professor is like? Read this book.
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Stoner is actually one of the more fortunate individuals in the 20th century, born a white man in middle America, with a good brain, reasonably good looks, and access to affordable quality education. Although you would not know it from reading this book, he lives in the middle of a deeply racist, classist, and misogynist society, but he takes his privileges completely for granted, just as the author seems to. He drifts through life, taking the path of least resistance, falling into a pattern of poor life choices. After making a failure of a marriage, failing as a father, and failing to connect with any of his students, he has a failed loved affair. Meanwhile, he develops no interests in anything outside his tiny solipsistic world. After living through two world wars without any great suffering, he reaches retirement age feeling immensely sorry for himself, and then suitably dies of cancer.

Really, if this is what teaching medieval literature will do for a person, it's a shame that Stoner didn't stick with agronomy. Oh, and you'd probably be better off doing some gardening instead of reading this book.

(Yes, there are some effectively sparse "writerly" passages that nicely reflect the bleakness of midwestern winters.)
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LibraryThing member kewing
The spare language and word choices make this novel a joy to read. Despite the sad, somber, sober tone and atmosphere, the novel was immediately engaging. The remote and icey personal relations, the brutal skirmishes of academe, a brief passion for life and scholarship--all wrapped in Williams
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perfect pitch storytelling: there is little sense of desperation in this quiet life. Stoner has been too long neglected.
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LibraryThing member polarbear123
This is a sublime novel. Simply written but containing so many astute observations on human behaviour. We know the story because we all live the story whether we are conscious of it or not. To those of us who are you will find reading this book a haunting almost self reflective experience. The
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final chapter will stick with me and all I can say is that I would recommend this book wholeheartedly to any fan of great literature. Believe the hype.
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LibraryThing member hemlokgang
Reading this deceptively straightforward novel was an unexpected pleasure. The plot is simple, telling the tale of one man's life. A simple university professor's life. To me the profound aspect of this novel stems from the brilliant tale of becoming. Stoner "becomes" in the context of growing up
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on a farm, living through WWI, the Depression, and WWII. He "becomes" because of his experiences of various forms of love, with wife, lover, and child. He "becomes" within the context of university politics. Most of his life is spent in the inner world of his mind, while the outer world tends to both bewilder and horrify him. My hunch is that this reading experience may bore some, while it may profoundly impact others. For me, it is strongly reminiscent of the experience of reading Jean Paul Sartre's "The Stranger". This one will stay with me for quite a while!
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LibraryThing member OscarWilde87
William Stoner grows up on a farm in Missouri. One day, his father learns that William has the chance to attend the University of Missouri in order to study agriculture. Intending to take over his parents' farm, Stoner seizes the opportunity. In the course of his studies, Stoner is forced to have
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an introductory lecture in literature. While he does not like it at the beginning, literature slowly starts to grow on him, which is mainly because of his instructor Professor Archer Sloane and a Shakespeare sonnet. Stoner is so impressed by literary studies that he changes his major to literature and his mentored by Archer Sloane. Over the next couple of years, Stoner remains at the university and finally manages to receive a Ph. D. All this is set against the background of the beginning of the twentieth century, so during his studies Stoner is faced with the decision whether he wants to join the armed forces in World War I or stay at university and pursue his studies. Stoner opts for the latter, while some of his friends decide to go to war. After receiving his Ph. D., Stoner becomes assistant professor at the university and finds joy in teaching literature to young students. This is about it for Stoner's career as he is never promoted, one reason being that he loves teaching so much that he does not feel the need for a full professorship, the other being a dispute with the head of the English department.
In his private life, Stoner marries Edith after knowing her only for a short time. The marriage is far from being a happy one and William Stoner finds his wife to be very cold and resentful. While sex is not really part of the Stoners' marriage, they still have a child, Grace, who is mostly cared for by William. To sum up, Stoner is a portrait of the protagonist with the same name and follows his career and his private life, both of which are full of struggles. The only positive aspects in Stoner's life are his never-fading love of literature and his affair with a younger colleague, Katherine.

The character of William Stoner is probably what I loved most about this novel. The depiction of Stoner's life is truly realistic and makes you identify with him. There are many well-known characters in literature and to my mind, John Williams' Stoner deserves to be called one of them. I found myself passionately following his every move, hurting when he had to suffer the hardships of his marriage and being joyful when he finally finds true love and is able to enjoy his life. William Stoner takes great care of his daughter in times his wife selfishly abandons the family. There is a special bond between William and his daughter Grace that you can feel while reading the little episodes in their lives. When Stoner is challenged by the head of the department at university, you can grasp the strain this puts on Stoner, who loves teaching literature. The moment Stoner manages to fight back and is once again allowed to teach advanced classes in his field is not just a victory for Stoner but it has also been a victory for me as a reader who just felt that it was about time that something positive happened to this great character.

Stoner is one of the greatest novels I have ever read. Probably it is also one of the greatest novels I am ever going to read. This novel left a deep impression on me that certainly is to last for a very long time. Highly recommendable and no less than a 5-star read.
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LibraryThing member wunderkind
I really wanted to love this book, but I ended up with really mixed feelings. The plot is pretty simple: William Stoner is born to a farming family in Missouri in the late 1800s, grows up to be an English professor at the University of Missouri, progresses through his career and life, and dies. I
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wanted this to be a profound meditation on life and relationships, and in a way it is; it's just that the views expressed are ones I philosophically disagree with. Stoner is kind, stoic, and really, really passive, to the point where I ended up almost not caring what happened to him. Whenever Stoner's life starts to go in a direction he doesn't like, he does nothing to stop it, even if he feels a flicker of anger or frustration. He has moments of happiness, but they always seemed accepted, never earned. I did not empathize with Stoner, or with any of the characters in the book. The thing is, Williams is a very good writer, and there are a few passages about love that are just beautiful, but I don't like his worldview. Maybe it's because I'm young and naive, but I think that things worth having (like love, family, friendship, and meaning in life) are worth fighting for, or at least worth exerting effort over, if "fighting" is too violent a way to put it. Interestingly, a few of the characters in "Stoner" reminded me of my great-grandparents, based on what I have been told about them, so maybe the sort of weary acceptance of less-than-desirable situations is something characteristic of an earlier generation, which John Williams might have just been a representative of. So "Stoner" may not have been my cup of tea, but I'm glad I read it; it wasn't inspiring or exactly enjoyable, but it's given me a lot to think about.
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LibraryThing member Cariola
As someone who taught in the English Department at the University of Missouri-Columbia for several years and who has been in academia for several decades, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated this beautifully written, understated novel. William Stoner grew up on a hard scrabble farm outside of
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Boone, Missouri. As he approached his high school graduation, he was surprised when his father decided to send him to college to study Agriculture. In his sophomore year, William discovers a love for language and takes his professor's advice to focus on becoming a teacher. With hard work and the support of his mentor, he completes his PhD and is hired by Mizzou as an assistant professor.

There's nothing terribly unexpected in Stoner: he's one of the many who seem to get stuck on the academic path. (It's a story I know well.) William marries the first girl he falls for, a high-strung St. Louis socialite who seems to be perpetually disappointed with life, constantly reinventing herself, and family obligations become obstacles in his way. Stoner is hen-pecked by his wife and bullied by some of his colleagues; he is loved by some of his students and disdained by others. He has his days of brilliance in the classroom, but most of the time he feels unable to convey his love of and excitement about literature. He often recalls the words of his graduate school friends, Dave Masters, who believed that the university is "an asylum" for those who can't fit anywhere else. In many ways, Stoner is a tale of quiet endurance.
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LibraryThing member Opinionated
"The greatest novel you have never read" says the blurb. But its not though is it? Yes, it is beautifully lyrical,evocative prose. Yes, it shows the value of every life, and the value of dedicated work as a life goal and means to self actualisation. Yes, its highly readable. But there are some
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problems too

The first of these are not the author's fault in any way - but in the Vintage edition I had the misfortune to read, the slender plot is explained in the introduction. My advice? Don't read the Introduction

Secondly, (and if you haven't read the book, there may be a SPOILER or two here) he writes female characters badly. There are a grand total of 4 women in Stoner's life. His mother is such a tabula rasa that she promptly dies as soon as her husband does, as though Williams couldn't imagine any contribution she could make of her own. His wife is a sphinx, who seems to loath him for now obvious reason, his daughter a depressive alcoholic for no obvious reason, and the only other female character he interacts with his is passionate lover - again for no obvious reason. Thats literally it - women are mothers, wives, daughters or lovers. There's no other role available for them

Thirdly, he writes friendship badly too. Gordon Finch is Stoner's lifelong friend, but what he gets out of that friendship is again anyone's guess. Fourthly, he writes current events predictably. World War I arrives - and a friend is killed. The stock market crashes - and someone commits suicide. Its all very predictable

What is good is the University politics, the routines and rewards of teaching, and the simple virtues of a purposeful life. But the best novel you've never read? Not even close
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LibraryThing member JimmyChanga
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
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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." p53or 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 250I'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.
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LibraryThing member blackandamber
Finely written though slightly depressing story of the entire life of a gentle, passive university lecturer in the first part of the 20th century
LibraryThing member Cygnus555
Outstanding work of literature. A Friend loaned this to me and I am loathe to give it back. I will have to get my own copy.
After reading the first paragraph, I wondered how I could find my self caring about this character - but I did and could not stop reading. Tender, real, powerful - Stoner is a
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true hero.
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LibraryThing member mckall08
William Stoner is a farmboy from a small town in Missouri. His family sacrifices to give him an education and he is accepted at the University of Missouri. As he pursues his studies, an iconoclastic English professor, perhaps seeing something of himself in Stoner, mentors him, and sets him onto a
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teaching career.

William Stoner is teacher and later a professor at a southern university. Throughout a career, spanning two world wars, he's willing to sacrifice personal relations and professional advancement rather than compromise his sense of academic integrity. While the reader may cry out for a real battle, it never happens on the outside. Despite almost certain loss of his career and family, he never wavers from steadfast adherence to his core beliefs.
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LibraryThing member KymmAC
Great book, loved the writing, but god was it bleak.
Bleak, bleak, bleak.
What's the point? There is no point. Life sucks and then you die. Ugh. Good read, but a deep hurt that is lasting a week or more.
LibraryThing member bobbidv
A quiet novel about loneliness and doing the right thing. Stoner is a university teacher in a sad marriage who nevertheless tries his best to be a decent husband, a good father, and a good instructor to his students. To him, his life is a failure. But, from my point of view, he was a good man whom
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others may have let down. A wonderful story.
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LibraryThing member Rdra1962
Although I am more than 1/2 way thru this book I am putting it down. It came highly recommended, but it is so frustratingly depressing. This book was written in 1965 and is still in action on Goodreads, but I cannot figure out why.
I was emotionally numbed by the writing, by the way the author tells
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the story, rather than letting it unfold. The main character, Stoner, comes from a bleak family on a bleak farm. He is sent to university and falls in love with Literature. He becomes a teacher, marries someone who is obviously mentally ill, and settles for an emotionally deadened life. Things happened for no reason, characters seem more like caricatures, and the tone of the novel just trudges on. I was never able to care about anyone in book, they all seemed one dimensional.
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LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
This is a difficult book to review. First published in 1965, Stoner tells the story of a quiet man who becomes an associate professor of English at the state university in Missouri, living a quiet and dignified life that makes no lasting impression. I know, right? You want to run to the bookstore
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right now and get your own copy.

Yet this low-key book packs a punch. Stoner may keep his emotions to himself and his life may be a routine and expected one, but the story is oddly gripping, how a boy from dour parents farming dying land went to college to study agriculture and ended up falling in love with literature and language, how he belonged at that university and how he ordered his days to reach something approaching contentment.
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LibraryThing member mkfs
There are a few of these tales about a marriage going sour, due to the irrational and unpredictable demands of a woman who has decided to declare war on her spouse. It always feels one-sided, like listening to a friend explain his divorce, and how everything was ruined by that insane wife. Not
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exactly convincing.

To be fair, Stoner is pretty clueless, marrying the first unattached girl he sets eyes on, wandering into a feud with his chair that anyone could see was a set-up. The reader is supposed to just accept this cluelessness, and somehow root for him regardless.

This makes for a dreary and tedious novel for the most part, though it does pick up towards the end: both when Stoner decides to just chuck civilized discourse and become the cranky old man of the department, and when he reviews his life at its end and realizes how much of its problems were of his own making.

If the middle had been more convincingly developed, this could have been a very powerful novel.
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LibraryThing member kant1066
Until recently, I usually begin a book with the same amount of enthusiasm with which I end it. Good books have inviting beginnings, which sustain me through to the end; to be overly simplistic about matters, bad ones can be bad in many different ways (see the first sentence of “Anna Karenina”)
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but I usually still trudge through due to my half-hearted attempt at self-discipline and genuine belief that To Quit A Book Is A Serious Thing, Indeed. Lately, I’ve been beginning books with one opinion and finishing them with another. “Stoner” was one of those.

It begins as a tight, crisp story, without lingering over any of the main character Stoner’s biographical details too much. Stoner comes from a poor family of farmers and after a few semesters of thinking he is going to get a degree in agriculture, soon finds that his true calling is literature. He pursues an M.A. and a Ph.D. which draws him further away from his family, gets married to a cold, distant debutante named Edith, and has an adorable daughter named – and this is important - Grace.

As the book and the marriage wear on, Edith becomes more and more inexplicably heartless, tormenting, and cruel, you feel like you’re reading “The Good Soldier” – something Dreiserian in its ability to induce pathos. One of the biggest unsolved mysteries of the novels – and it’s really one that should have been explained more carefully – is why a mild-mannered milquetoast like Stoner would have married a total bitch like Edith. Divorce wasn’t completely unheard of a century ago; they certainly didn’t run in social circles where they had to keep up appearances. So, what gives?

The one thing the story has going for it is Williams’ refusal to romanticize Stoner, his occupation in academia, or any other aspect of his life. This certainly isn’t an Ivory Tower university (not that those are always so cozy either) where he gets paid to spend hours idling over dusty books in the Rare Books Room; he has several undergraduate classes, teaches a graduate seminar about the influence of Latin literature in late antiquity, and is responsible for a spate of graduate students’ dissertations. In addition to this, he also researches and writes to be published (how little things change over the decades). Well, two things: that and Stoner’s implacable dedication to the profession of teaching.

Williams was once asked in an interview about Stoner’s life, and if he thought it was “sad.” He responded with an affirmative “no,” that Stoner had an absolutely wonderful life. This good life, full of wonder, can only be adjudged to be such against Stoner’s own standards of what it means to be a teacher and how closely he hewed to them. He was a passionate teacher, even though we’re told in the opening lines that “Stoner’s colleagues, who held him in no particular esteem when he was alive, speak of him rarely now; to the other ones, his name is a reminder of the end that awaits them all, and to the younger ones it is a sound which evokes no sense of the past and no identity with which they can associate themselves or their careers.”

Let’s be brutally honest here: when all is said and done, the will be said for 99.9% of us. That old Greek wish of being remembered generations and generations hence, which came to easily to Odysseus, just will not come to fruition for most of us. Does that make our lives any less full of wonder, or regret, or even the sublime? Stoner’s life, I think, serves as an answer: “no.” For it is in how we pursue what is most meaningful to us that marks the truest measure of ourselves. As someone more eloquent than myself said in her Goodreads review, “it is about how the inner life redeems the outer.” How simply, and how beautifully said.
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LibraryThing member Luli81
This might be for me the best book of the year.
Sublimely told and with such a subtle narrative which flows easily displaying the life of an ordinary man during an extraordinary time in America. This might be the story of a whole becoming country or only the unheroic account of a simple
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But its simplicity is what makes it unearthly beautiful, nostalgic and moving.
Early 1900's, Missouri, although Stoner comes from a modest family of farmers his father sends him to the state university to study agronomy. But he falls in love with English literature instead and thanks to a particular professor he becomes a teacher himself, growing estranged from his family in the process.
We follow his life through 40 years of teaching, of crushed illusions and bitter disappointments about his failure of a marriage to the wrong woman, of rare fleeting blissful moments in a rather bleak existence in solitude, of a life dedicated to teaching where he finds his only solace.

I found that as the years passed by, the voice in the novel gained in strength and that Stoner became the person he was always supposed to be. His seemingly detached account of the years between the two great world wars, his increasing estrangement first from his family and later from his own wife and daughter, his struggle for an idealistic conception of what university teachers should be like... all these issues cause great suffering to this man, who, without doing much in his life or maybe doing more than most, bears a stoic testimony of a past time which created the basis of what we are now.

I closed the last pages of the book with my eyes completely blurred and with such constrained emotion in my chest that it was almost painful.
A masterpiece not appreciated as it would deserve, maybe because this book reads like real life instead of a best-seller-hero-with a-happy-ending story.
Can't say how good this novel is, just pick it up and read it.
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LibraryThing member maryreinert
Granted, this isn't a exciting read; however, it is a fulfilling read. Stoner, the mediocre professor at the University of Missouri at first study could be considered a failure. Almost all of his relationships could be summed up as cold and distant: his parents, wife, and child. In the midst of
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that throw in a middle age torrid love affair with a younger colleague; even that affair hardly rocks his world. He lets the world and those around him determine who is he rather than ever rebelling against unfairness, boredom, or tradition. Yet, in spite of all that, in my opinion, he moves from a tragic figure to one that is to be respected (admired is too strong a word). Stoner is indeed a rock. Through the ups and downs of a marriage and a career, he remains solidly the same.

The writing is beautiful in this book. The story is poignant, thoughtful, and though provoking.
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LibraryThing member LarryDarrell
One of the best books I have read. Beautifully written story of one man's life-long development. Incredibly sad, incredibly smart.
LibraryThing member thorold
This was one of those cases where a friend passes you a book by someone you've never heard of and says "you must read this!" That's not something that happens to me often, so I decided to try the experiment of reading it "blind", i.e. without first trying to find something out about the book and
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its author. It was certainly an interesting exercise: my guess about the author and date would have been entirely wrong. The Midwestern setting, with its centre of gravity in the twenties and thirties, the slow, uniform, almost agricultural tread of the prose and the fearsomely linear narrative all seemed to be pointing towards a latish work by a writer from the age of American naturalism, a contemporary of Sinclair Lewis or Theodore Dreiser. I would never have guessed it was written in the sixties by someone born in the 1920s.

Beyond that, it's definitely an engaging book, but I didn't find reading it a life-changing experience. What it says about the way universities are run seems to be fairly standard, and its message that there is more to fulfilment in life than a successful career and a happy marriage is not exactly a radical idea either, and nor is the author's apparent conviction that all women are either hysterical monsters or perfect, passive lovers. Sometimes it's perhaps not such a bad thing if we overlook and under-appreciate books about overlooked and under-appreciated teachers.
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