Thursday, February 3, 2011


Stoner (New York Review Books Classics)Stoner by  John Williams
purchased kindle edition from Amazon
Description from Goodreads:
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.

My take:
Stoner is an amazing, beautiful book. At times, the story is just heart-breaking. His marriage is a prime example of this.  The relationship is just so bitter and sharp and delicate - and absolutely perfect in the depiction of the way William and Edith relate to one another. His mortal, life-long enemy, Lomax is another example of a heart-breaking situation. I just felt so sorry for Stoner while reading certain scenes. But the description of his discovery of literature and his new found love of learning was wonderful. There are numerous examples of his constant desire to continue to read and learn throughout the book.
. . . there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.

This is the story of a life. A life well-lived, full of the joy of learning and teaching as well as heartbreak and troubles that were personal, financial and professional. Much of the story is heart-breaking, but there is also this sense of a life lived with quiet purpose and strength. Stoner does get the love relationship he deserves, but it is a short-term thing, which is one of the bitter sweet events of his life. But I felt that he found a solace in his books and teaching career - even though Lomax made sure that his teaching schedule was mostly freshman level classes. There are also quiet, subtle victories that made me smile and admire this quiet, shy, studious person.

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