Stoner Paperback – Jun 20 2006
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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)
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“A beautiful, sad, utterly convincing account of an entire life…I’m amazed a novel this good escaped general attention for so long.” —Ian McEwan
“One of the great unheralded 20th-century American novels …Almost perfect.” —Bret Easton Ellis
“Stoner is a novel of an ordinary life, an examination of a quiet tragedy, the work of a great but little-known writer.” —Ruth Rendell
“A beautiful and moving novel, as sweeping, intimate, and mysterious as life itself.” —Geoff Dyer
“I have read few novels as deep and as clear as Stoner. It deserves to be called a quiet classic of American literature.” —Chad Harbach
“The most beautiful book in the world.” —Emma Straub
"A poignant campus novel from the mid-'60s—an unjustly neglected gem." —Nick Hornby, People
“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
“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, 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 Kreider, 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
“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, The 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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Top Customer Reviews
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).Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Stoner has a cult following amongst literary types of a certain bent. It is a perfectly imagined line. The prose is clearer and sharper than most anything i have read. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Josie Boyce
Stoner was one of the best books I have ever read. It held my attention completely and I just hated to put it down.Published 4 months ago by Ron Leonard
A masterpiece so flawless, so virtually peerless that its lengthy languish in obscurity is a quiet catastrophe. Read morePublished 5 months ago by martindugard
This is a simple, beautiful story that you will not forget. Highly overlooked.Published 7 months ago by Lisa
The campus book by that great writer of seminal fiction about Rome, Cowboys...Published 7 months ago by Symington
fascinating character; flowed well; excellent description; my book club is discussing this tomorrow but good reviews so far; my husband did not like stoner, the man, but I felt... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
0ne 0f the best kept secrets considered one of the best uknown books n.timesPublished 14 months ago by ida tugg