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Stoner (New York Review Books Classics) by…

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

by John Williams, John McGahern (Introduction)

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Title:Stoner (New York Review Books Classics)
Authors:John Williams
Other authors:John McGahern (Introduction)
Info:NYRB Classics (2006), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites

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Stoner by John Williams (1965)

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English (108)  Dutch (24)  Italian (8)  Spanish (4)  French (2)  Hebrew (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (152)
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
Julian Barnes' quote on the back cover is an accurate recommendation: "A terrific novel of echoing sadness." Wonderfully intelligent and literary without being too clever. Sad in some ways, but triumphal overall. A great novel. ( )
  PhilipJHunt | Jan 13, 2015 |
As someone who taught in the English Department at the University of Missouri-Columbia for several years and who has been in academia for several decades, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated this beautifully written, understated novel. William Stoner grew up on a hard scrabble farm outside of Boone, Missouri. As he approached his high school graduation, he was surprised when his father decided to send him to college to study Agriculture. In his sophomore year, William discovers a love for language and takes his professor's advice to focus on becoming a teacher. With hard work and the support of his mentor, he completes his PhD and is hired by Mizzou as an assistant professor.

There's nothing terribly unexpected in Stoner: he's one of the many who seem to get stuck on the academic path. (It's a story I know well.) William marries the first girl he falls for, a high-strung St. Louis socialite who seems to be perpetually disappointed with life, constantly reinventing herself, and family obligations become obstacles in his way. Stoner is hen-pecked by his wife and bullied by some of his colleagues; he is loved by some of his students and disdained by others. He has his days of brilliance in the classroom, but most of the time he feels unable to convey his love of and excitement about literature. He often recalls the words of his graduate school friends, Dave Masters, who believed that the university is "an asylum" for those who can't fit anywhere else. In many ways, Stoner is a tale of quiet endurance. ( )
1 vote Cariola | Jan 2, 2015 |
Rivelazione scovata di passaggio in libreria, il testo e' semplice, duro e leggero. Come forse molte vite sono, come di sicuro quella di Stoner non è. Un testo che lascia dei non-detti che conferiscono fascino ad una trama che ad una lettura superficiale potrebbe sembrare monotona.
Forse è in questo levare che le vite di tutti noi assumono un significato che altrimenti si perderebbe nell'urgenza del fare e del dover essere. Molto, molto umano. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
This is a difficult book for me to review. I frankly no longer remember how I first stumbled upon it, but I vaguely recall that it (and John Williams) first came to my attention a couple of months ago – and that Stoner came to me with a very strong recommendation. On the basis of that recommendation, I put the book on hold at the Brooklyn Public Library. It became available to me only a couple of days ago, as there had apparently been a great demand for it in the meantime.

My acquaintance with writers from the Midwest dates back several decades, when I read Sinclair Lewis, Theodore Dreiser and Frank Norris in quick succession. It’s been even longer than that since I last dabbled in another Midwesterner, Ernest Hemingway. In any case, Hemingway is as much a product of foreign wars, far-flung kingdoms, and bullrings as he is a child of the Midwest.

To my mind, at least, there’s something remarkably odd about writers from the Midwest, and I don’t know whether it’s the local weather (extremes of hot in summer and cold in winter), the huge expanse of open country and flat, unremarkable land, the ethnic peculiarities of the local population – or some combination of all of these – that gives rise to what I’ll call a kind of “austerity” in the narrative each of these writers undertakes. John Williams is no exception. His characters are austere; their life-style is austere; their emotions are austere to the point of sterility. It’s painful enough to read about them; I can’t imagine actually being one of those characters or leading the lives each leads. Early death – or even stillbirth – would seem preferable.

Would I have suggested the same end for this novel? I don’t know. In all things literary and artistic, I subscribe to the notion that “de gustibus non est disputandum” – which is a notion that applies here as well. In any case and in spite of the popular acclaim for this author and his work, I can’t count myself an enthusiast.

While I realize that nine-tenths of the entire story takes place on a college campus (the University of Missouri, in Columbia, Missouri), there’s a horribly claustrophobic feeling about the whole thing. If this was Williams’s intent, then my hat’s off to him. But it all seems so unimportantly self-important. These people twist themselves into tight little knots – but to what end? I’m reminded of the only thing (IMHO) of both wit and value Henry Kissinger ever said when he was asked why academicians argued so vehemently and vociferously. “Because,” he said, “there’s so little at stake.”

Do I understand that the ‘windswept fields of academe’ are every bit as political and territorial as any two-bit, mid-town Manhattan office building? Of course I do – as does anyone else who’s spent an appreciable amount of time in those ‘fields,’ But precisely because “there’s so little at stake,” the battles are as lame and mundane (except, perhaps, to the combatants) as the outcomes. I mean, who really cares? Students and professors don’t get bloodied; they just get stoned – which leads me to wonder whether Williams intended the title of this book as a pun.

While Stoner, himself, doesn’t appear to be under the influence, his wife (Edith) and child (Grace) – and even his brief lover (Katherine Driscoll) would seem to be heavily addicted to some consciousness-altering substance, even if that substance is just the Midwestern air. Edith eventually goes bonkers; Grace takes first to motherhood by default, then to drink; and Katherine, from a distance and through her first book – yes, a book! – finally manages to kindle something like real passion in William Stoner. And yet, in Stoner “(i)t was a passion neither of the mind nor of the flesh; rather, it was a force that comprehended them both, as if they were but the matter of love, its specific substance. To a woman or to a poem, it said simply: Look! I am alive” (p. 250).

In the much better words of one who saw it all before – and described it all before – “life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (Act V, Scene 5).

I’m sorry if I’ve misinterpreted this work, which has been called “the perfect novel.” I’m sorry, too, if I failed to see what others saw in it – including John McGahern in his Introduction to Stoner. I just didn’t – and still don’t. Get it.

Brooklyn, NY

( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
very powerful
  srwinkler | Dec 6, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Williamsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
McGahern, JohnIntroductionmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krol, EdzardTranslatorsecondary 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.
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William Stoner entered the University of Missouri as a freshman in the year 1910, at the age of nineteen.
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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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NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590171993, 1590173937

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