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Stoner Paperback – Jun 20 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (June 20 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171993
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171998
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.6 x 20.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #14,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This reprint of Williams's remarkable 1965 novel offers a window on early 20th century higher education in addition to its rich characterizations and seamless prose. Sent by his hard-scrabble farmer father to the University of Missouri to study agriculture, William Stoner is sidetracked by an obsessive love of literature and stimulated by a curmudgeonly old professor, Archer Sloane. Sloane helps Stoner avoid service in WWI, and Stoner eventually becomes an assistant professor. He then meets and marries a St. Louis beauty, Edith, who quickly subjugates her contemplative, passive husband. As decades pass, Stoner entrenches himself deep into the life of the mind, developing into a master teacher but never finding solace in the outside world. Stoner's single joy is Grace, their daughter, whom Edith appropriates as a weapon in her very personal war against Stoner's quest for inner peace. Williams (1922–1994) won the NBA for Augustus (1973), and NYRB will republish his western, Butch's Crossing next year. Williams's prose flows in a smooth, efficient current that demands contemplation. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“The book begins boldly with a mention of Stoner’s death, and a nod to his profound averageness: ‘Few students remembered him with any sharpness after they had taken his courses.’ By the end, though, Williams has made Stoner’s disappointing life into such a deep and honest portrait, so unsoftened and unromanticized, that it’s quietly breathtaking.” —The Boston Globe

“Williams’ descriptions of the experience of reading both elucidate and evince the pleasures of literary language; the ‘minute, strange, and unexpected combinations of letters and words’ in which Stoner finds joy are re-enacted in Williams’ own perfect fusion of words.” —n+1

"Stoner, by John Williams, is a slim novel, and not a particularly joyous one. But it is so quietly beautiful and moving, so precisely constructed, that you want to read it in one sitting and enjoy being in it, altered somehow, as if you have been allowed to wear an exquisitely tailored garment that you don’t want to take off." —The Globe and Mail

"It is a marvelous discovery for everyone who loves literature." — Ian McEwan, BBC Radio 4

"One of the great forgotten novels of the past century. I have bought at least 50 copies of it in the past few years, using it as a gift for friends....The book is so beautifully paced and cadenced that it deserves the status of classic." —Colum McCann's Top 10 Novels, The Guardian

"Stoner is undeniably a great book, but I can also understand why it isn’t a sentimental favorite in its native land. You could almost describe it as an anti-Gatsby....Part of Stoner's  greatness is that it sees life whole and as it is, without delusion yet without despair....The novel embodies the very virtues it exalts, the same virtues that probably relegate it, like its titular hero, to its perpetual place in the shade. But the book, like professor William Stoner, isn’t out to win popularity contests. It endures, illumined from within."— Tim Krieder, The New Yorker

"It’s simply a novel about a guy who goes to college and becomes a teacher. But it’s one of the most fascinating things that you’ve ever come across." — Tom Hanks, Time

"Stoner is written in the most plainspoken of styles….Its hero is an obscure academic who endures a series of personal and professional agonies. Yet the novel is utterly riveting, and for one simple reason: because the author, John Williams, treats his characters with such tender and ruthless honesty that we cannot help but love them." — Steve Almond, Tin House

 

"[T]he work deserves to be called a 'perfect novel' — there's not a misplaced word or a trace of contrivance." -Boldtype

 

"The best book I read in 2007 was Stoner by John Williams. It’s perhaps the best book I’ve read in years." -Stephen Elliott, The Believer

 

"John Williams's Stoner is something rarer than a great novel - it is a perfect novel, so well told and beautifully written, so deeply moving, that it takes your breath away." -The New York Times Book Review

 

"Williams didn't write much compared with some novelists, but everything he did was exceedingly fine...it's a shame that he's not more often read today...But it's great that at least two of his novels [Stoner, Butcher's Crossing] have found their way back into print." -The Denver Post

 

“A masterly portrait of a truly virtuous and dedicated man” —The New Yorker

 

“Why isn’t this book famous…Very few novels in English, or literary productions of any kind, have come anywhere near its level for human wisdom or as a work of art.” —C.P. Snow

 

“Serious, beautiful and affecting, what makes Stoner so impressive is the contained intensity the author and character share.” —Irving Howe, New Republic

 

“A quiet but resonant achievement” —The Times Literary Supplement

 

"Perhaps the greatest example of minimalism I’ve ever read...Stoner is a story of great hope for the writer who cares about her work." -Stephen Elliott

 

Stoner by John Williams, contains what is no doubt my favorite literary romance of all time. William Stoner is well into his 40s, and mired in an unhappy marriage, when he meets Katherine, another shy professor of literature. The affair that ensues is described with a beauty so fierce that it takes my breath away each time I read it. The chapters devoted to this romance are both terribly sexy and profoundly wise.”—The Christian Science Monitor

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Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael Leone on July 18 2003
Format: Paperback
I'd never heard of this author or this book until I read an essay about him in an old back issue of Ploughshares by the novelist Dan Wakefield. I was suspect, too, because I'm not one for academic novels, unless they're farcical, because the only thing there seems to be at stake in academic novels is tenure, which in my opinion, doesn't make for such great reading. Well, not so in Stoner. Stoner is a quiet look at a man's largely unheroic and drab life, "an adventureless tale" as Joyce wrote (and in many respects William Stoner, the protagonist, comes right out of Dubliners). The feat of this book is that Williams makes the diurnal and fairly dull activities of an academic utterly riveting. How does he do it? By not being precious or pretentious about it, which is how so many other writers would have handled the material. Instead, Williams believes in the integrity of his hero, for whom nothing is easily achieved, or for that matter, very attractive. Even Stoner's honeymoon is a fairly squalid affair, and somehow, as bad as the story gets -- and it doesn't get bad in a dramatic or gimmicky way, just bad in the sense that Stoner never really experiences any joy in his life -- we keep reading. The book is grim, yes, and yet it will leave you feeling oddly enthralled. Read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mark on March 14 2004
Format: Paperback
In this remarkable, overlooked work, John Williams chooses as his central character an undistinguished English professor (Stoner), who lives a largely uneventful life teaching at a drab Midwestern university. Neither Stoner's wife, nor his colleagues, nor his students think much of him. Yet the degree to which Williams succeeds in bringing the reader to identify with -- and care for -- his most unlikely protagonist is nothing short of a triumph. The final pages, in particular, are sad, transcendent, and unforgettable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eager Reader on Jan. 9 2010
Format: Paperback
I thought this book was very well written, but unfortunately the dull personality and life of the main character failed to affect me. I enjoy at times reading a story that follows a more existential thread, if it evokes poignantly themes such as melancholy, incommunicability, estrangement, and sadness of the human condition, but like his family and colleagues, I didn't seem to care very much about William Stoner. I would have liked to feel for him, but ultimately his fate left me rather lukewarm.
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Format: Paperback
Stoner by John Williams is neither about marijuana culture nor written by the famous composer, but it is a fairly interesting novel about a guy who becomes an English professor in the 1920's.

Having grown up on a farm, William Stoner attends the University of Missouri intending to get an agriculture degree. In his sophomore year, though, he takes a required English literature course, and while at first terrified of the subject and his instructor, soon comes to love the course. Rather than return to the farm after graduation, he begins his academic career as a graduate student and instructor. Around this time he gets married to a woman he's known for less than a month, and almost immediately there are signs that the marriage will be unhappy. Later, the death of Stoner's mentor in the department leads to the hiring of Hollis Lomax, the man who will become Stoner's main professional antagonist. In his mid-forties, Stoner also begins an affair with a younger instructor, but this ends in scandal. Though Stoner is good friends with Gordon Finch, the department chair, these and other problems plague Stoner both professionally and personally for the rest of his life.

Plot isn't really the novel's main focus—after all, it's fairly normal as far as academic life in the early 20th Century might go. Rather it's the experience of a man who faces the above duress with a growing sense of stoicism, immersing himself in his academic work for what he sees as its intrinsic value, and preserving his one good relationship with Finch. As well, the novel is a look at academic politics (brought out by Lomax), and, as I would argue, a commentary on social norms of the 1920s and 30s (brought out by his marriage and later affair).
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Format: Paperback
This book defies easy categorization. It's about the son of hardscrabble and proud farmers who goes to college just before WWI to learn modern farming techniques; instead he discovers he has a facility for book learning. He becomes a professor of literature but his life is an unhappy one: he marries a woman who turns out to be cold and unresponsive; he dotes on his daughter, but his wife alienates her and the daughter later becomes pregnant to get away, and becomes an alcoholic; he offends the college dean and his career is thwarted. His one chance at happiness is an affair that too is doomed. As grim as it is, the novel is oddly compelling; it's not kind to academic life. Stoner seems caught by his nature; the times; the place; a failure of will. He seems to have no real control of his destiny. Nor does his love of literature appear to give any direction to his life. His is a bleak, hard life. He's caught and can't - or won't -escape. "The unexamined life is not worth living."
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By Rob on Jan. 24 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Had to finish this short book finding it hard to put down but this is a contemplative novel full of life's truths with reflections of one's own journey through life. It almost reads like a condensed book, straight to the point with nothing superfluous. I plan to reread it at a more leisurely pace someday and this is a book I wouldn't wouldn't want to lend or give away. I gave it a 4 star only because I found some of the language to be a bit archaic in this original form. In all reading this book was an enriching experience.
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