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

by John Williams, John McGahern (Introduction)

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2,1541473,020 (4.3)183
Member:andyg227
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
Rating:****1/2
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Stoner by John Williams (1965)

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» See also 183 mentions

English (105)  Dutch (22)  Italian (8)  Spanish (4)  French (2)  Hebrew (1)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (146)
Showing 1-5 of 105 (next | show all)
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.


RRB
10/26/14
Brooklyn, NY


( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
very powerful
  srwinkler | Dec 6, 2014 |
Stoner, der Protagonist dieses Buches, wirkt auf Aussenstehende zeit seines Lebens wie ein schüchterner und immer schrulliger werdendes Wesen, wobei fast niemand ahnt, zu welch leidenschaftlichen Gefühlen er fähig ist. Anfang des 20. Jahrhunderts aus den ärmsten Verhältnissen kommend, gelingt es ihm dank der Unterstützung seiner Eltern, englische Literatur zu studieren und eine Professorenstelle zu erhalten. Er heiratet die Frau die er liebt, doch diese ist aufgrund ihrer Erziehung nicht zu positiven Gefühlen fähig - es wird eine lieblose Ehe. Dennoch hadert Stoner nicht mit seinem Schicksal, sondern widmet sich voller Hingabe seiner kleinen Tochter Grace, deren Wesen ganz ihrem Vater gleichkommt. Als seine Frau beschließt, Grace seinem Einfluss zu entziehen, widersetzt er sich nicht und nimmt das Unausweichliche hin.
Immer wieder habe ich mich beim Lesen gefragt, was diesen Menschen so nachgiebig, 'weich' und ohne jeden Ehrgeiz sein lässt, während er andererseits bei anderen wenigen Dingen unnachgiebig auf seinen Prinzipien beharrt, auch wenn sie ihm zum Nachteil gereichen. So gut wie immer verzichtet er darauf seinen Willen durchzusetzen; Wut, Hass oder Ärger sind ihm fast gänzlich fremd, obwohl er dazu vermutlich jeden Grund hätte. Doch er nimmt sein Leben an wie es kommt, sieht die vermeintlichen Beweggründe Anderer hinter ihren Handlungen, auch wenn diese noch so ungerecht und verletztend für ihn sind, denn er ist voller Liebe. Der folgende Absatz, der sich im hinteren Teil des Buches befindet, macht dies vielleicht anschaulich:
"Auf die eine oder andere Weise hatte er sie (die Liebe) jedem Augenblick seines Lebens gegeben und sie vielleicht am reichlichsten gegeben, wenn ihm dies gar nicht bewusst gewesen war. Diese Leidenschaft war weder eine des Verstandes noch des Fleisches, sondern vielmehr eine Kraft, die beides umschloss, als wären sie zusammen nichts anderes als der Stoff, aus dem die Liebe ist, ihre ganz spezifische Substanz. Angesichts einer Frau, eines Gedichts sagte sie einfach: Sieh her! Ich lebe."
Ein Buch über einen Menschen voller Liebe, das einen dennoch etwas traurig zurücklässt - hätte ihn etwas weniger Liebe und ein klein bisschen Egoismus nicht mehr glückliche Momente erleben lassen? Ich weiss es nicht, aber etwas mehr von Stoners Wesen täte unserer Welt sicherlich gut! ( )
1 vote Xirxe | Dec 2, 2014 |
An excellent character study of the main character and all others. It was a rich tragic and heroic study of an ordinary life. ( )
  snash | Nov 18, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Williamsprimary authorall 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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