Book - 2003
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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.
Publisher: New York : New York Review Books, c2003
ISBN: 9781590171998
Branch Call Number: FICTION Williams 2003
Characteristics: xiv, 278 p. ; 21 cm


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Apr 15, 2017

Great insights into the passion for teaching and learning

Apr 01, 2017

This is the story of a rather ordinary man William Stoner who lived a not particularly eventful life. The author somehow makes the novel quite interesting and enjoyable to read. I don't know how he did that.

Mar 24, 2017

This book really is the greatest American novel that you've never heard of. The quality of the nearly perfect writing puts most modern novels to shame. Stoner suffers and struggles through his entirely bleak life but ultimately finds a noble sense of purpose in his life's work.

Jul 12, 2016

Compelling story of an ordinary man.
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays

Mar 12, 2016

I'll skip the summary since there is a nice one from the publisher on this page.

The novel has been categorized as an academic novel and early in the book I thought it didn’t matter what the professional setting was since there are similar politics in any profession. Later, though, I realized that William Stoner not only had to be cast as a teacher but his subject had to be English—Williams uses the book to make a statement on literature’s potential. While studying literature in college, Stoner"would feel that he was out of time, as he had felt that day in class when Archer Sloane had spoken to him [about the 73rd sonnet]. 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."

Those moments of otherness, standing outside of time, happen a few times in the book and, in addition to communing with those no longer living, provide a balm to Stoner. Just as Stoner explains to his students that there is poetry in grammar and other places we don’t expect, Williams shows there is poetry within moments of our life we don’t anticipate. These moments keep Stoner’s life from being tragic, even when the moment is something as simple as his daughter’s face absorbing the light in his study while he worked. With Stoner, John Williams makes good on equating the study of literature and language with investigating the mystery of the mind and heart.

Nov 29, 2015

I dislike using such worn out words and phrases as "inspirational" and "a testament to the endurance of the human spirit"- for these descriptions have been hijacked by the worst pap of inferior writing which dominates book clubs and bestseller lists- yet Stoner is both these things. It rings true in the heart of the reader with quiet, simple insistence. You should read it.

Aug 24, 2015

Beautiful. Elegantly written.

Aug 20, 2015

An American classic about the disintegration of an honest, ordinary and unassuming man.

Mar 04, 2015

Definitely the finest American novel I'd never heard of.

Jan 26, 2015

Liked the writing and the character development. Thought the ending was really well done. Leaves you sort of melancholy and thoughtful.

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