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Stoner (New York Review Books Classics) by…

Stoner (New York Review Books Classics) (original 1965; edition 2006)

by John Williams (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,7352291,980 (4.27)1 / 290
Title:Stoner (New York Review Books Classics)
Authors:John Williams (Author)
Info:NYRB Classics (2006), Edition: New York Review Books Classics, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Stoner by John Edward Williams (1965)

  1. 40
    Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell (agmlll)
  2. 30
    The Professor's House by Willa Cather (shaunie, Petroglyph)
    Petroglyph: Both "Stoner" and "The professor's house" deal with a small-town university professor vaguely comfortable with his family life, who fits uneasily in a new life that sorta kinda happened to him while he was focusing on his work. Both present compelling immersions in bittersweet nostalgia and the ever-present sense that life could have gone entirely different (and perhaps it should have).… (more)
  3. 20
    Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton (Booksloth)
  4. 20
    Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell (agmlll)
  5. 10
    The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington (potenza)
    potenza: Comparable tone / period / moral messaging.
  6. 10
    Canada by Richard Ford (shaunie)
  7. 00
    The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (SCPeterson)
    SCPeterson: Melancholy main characters whose devotion to duty is met with disappointment and lack of fulfillment in life and love
  8. 00
    Larry's Party by Carol Shields (GCPLreader)
  9. 01
    The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford [2007 film] by Andrew Dominik (potenza)
    potenza: Comparable profound but spare tone.

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Showing 1-5 of 170 (next | show all)
One of the fascinations of writing is that everyone gets the same set of tools: 26 letters, some punctuation marks, and the rules of grammar—but great writers take these same things with which we stumble and create books like Stoner. And even that previous, clumsy sentence proves my point: Stoner is so clean, so perfect, that John Williams makes the writing of it seem effortless. It’s done in straightforward, middle-of-the-century prose; it reminded me of Cheever. There are no tricks of narrative, no stylistic experiments, nothing to distance the reader from the Stoner’s experiences, which are not shocking or unusual. Still, the book grabbed my imagination like a thriller: I was thinking about it at work, I found myself remembering phrases, and thought two or three scenes excruciatingly tense.

The novel made me nostalgic for the English department from which I graduated in 1990, just before the study of literature was irrevocably poisoned: a place where there were known characters of varying opinions and temperaments but who were excited by books and loved to talk about them. The scenes with young Stoner reminded me of the time when I encountered my own Archer Sloane, the professor who shook me out of my complacency.

In his introduction to the NYRB edition, John McGahern describes Williams’s complaint, voiced in 1985, that English departments were treating novels or poems as “something to be studied and understood rather than experienced” and treating literature “as if it were a kind of puzzle.” Imagine if Williams were alive today and saw the course offerings of a typical English department—at least in the 1980s, literature was still revered and the desire to understand it was still viewed as worth the trouble. Today the puzzle is why books like Stoner will never appear on reading lists. Come to think of it, that’s not puzzling at all.

Read this.
( )
  Stubb | Aug 28, 2018 |
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 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. ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
It is a well constructed and executed novel, and I found reading it quite compelling, yet vaguely disappointing in the end. A life examined; a life that was straight, uncompromising and true to the character, but full of opportunities not taken, and much too passive for my liking. As the author said in a letter to his literary agent , “The point of the novel will be that he is a kind of saint. . . . It is a novel about a man who finds no meaning in the world or in himself, but he does find meaning and a kind of victory in the honest and dogged pursuit of his profession.” Dogged is right. Day to day endurance is the key. There is no evidence of any flair of any kind- either in his relationships or his academic output. He seems to be fair and doggedly sticking to what he thinks is right, but there are is no evidence of his students loving him or seeking him out to share their successes or challenges, or of his ideas making a difference. Just the opposite.
I am rather inclined to think that it is a satire on academia and academic life. Stoner's topics of interests are dangerously narrow and academic, his marriage dangerously close to a farce. His wife is beyond neurotic, never gives a chance for their marriage to work, and destroys their daughter. Yet, he sticks with it in sheer endurance and looks at his daughter being destroyed with passive sadness. He rejects his only opportunity at happiness, yet again, with resignation. He is not pitiful in the end, these are all his conscious choices, but not somebody who could be sanctified, the way I see it.
All that said, though, it is a good novel. ( )
  Niecierpek | Jun 19, 2018 |
I loved this book. I loved the writing. I loved the character of Stoner. I loved the delicate way the author handled everything. I loved Stoner's love of books. I loved the last scene. I loved the whole thing. I loved it so much that I kind of don't want to talk about it anymore, lest I come up with something that spoils it for me. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
I might come back to this book one day. This day I didn't get past page 31 yet it is beautifully written. I blame John McGahern for writing the introduction which contains a lot of spoilers, and shouldn't have been there. But add that to the entry into the story of David Masters and Gordon Finch and I just didn't want to spend any more time with this book. Sorry.
  Ma_Washigeri | May 27, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 170 (next | show all)
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 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.
added by SnootyBaronet | editNew Yorker, Tim Kreider (Oct 20, 2013)

» Add other authors (70 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Williams, John Edwardprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Krol, EdzardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McGahern, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rekiaro, IlkkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robben, BernhardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodell, MarieContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Torrescasana, AlbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is dedicated to my friends and former colleagues in the Department of English at the University of Missouri. They will recognize at once that it is a work of fiction--that no character portrayed in it is based upon any person, living or dead, and that no event has its counterpart in the reality we knew at the University of Missouri. They will also realize that I have taken certain liberties, both physical and historical, with the University of Missouri, so that in effect it, too, is a fictional place.
First words
William Stoner entered the University of Missouri as a freshman in the year 1910, at the age of nineteen.
He had dreamed of a kind of integrity, of a kind of purity that was entire; he had found compromise and the assaulting diversion of triviality. He had conceived wisdom, and at the end of the long years he had found ignorance.
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"Born the child of a poor farmer in Missouri, William Stoner is urged by his parents to study new agriculture techniques at the state university. Digging instead into the texts of Milton and Shakespeare, Stoner falls under the spell of the unexpected pleasures of English literature, and decides to make it his life. Stoner is the story of that life" -- publisher description (January 2007).… (more)

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Average: (4.27)
1 7
1.5 4
2 29
2.5 8
3 90
3.5 65
4 398
4.5 152
5 482

NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590171993, 1590173937

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