The narrator's clipped and deliberate style may be responsible for my lukewarm response to this title; I admit I may have had a completely different reaction had I simply picked up the written word version instead. On the other hand, the writer's style was not the easiest to warm up to: it was strange encountering so much adverbial modification (I wasn't even sure if some of these adverbs could ever be found in the dictionary). And although I understand that the impossibly impassive and stoic protagonist might actually have a counterpart in the real world, I found it very unfortunate that he had not learned anything from the extensive reading he had done. It is hard to reconcile his professed passion for literature with such a glaring absence of all the major themes of literature from his everyday life, whether physical or emotional.
I found this book to be interesting to a degree, and I cared enough about William Stoner to want to finish it. Imagine a boring, depressing life. Then ask a friend to help you make it more boring and depressing. That's Stoner's life.
Unafraid to read from any genre.
Here's a scary story for you. Not one with fictional creatures or supernatural occurrences, but instead, a novel that details all the quiet miseries and disappointments we work-a-day stiffs endure throughout the course of a lifetime. It is not an escape, but a story that forces you to confront the choices you have made in your own life. The writing is done with great care and intelligence, so that the reader gets the sense that WIlliams truly knows this academic world and its inhabitants.
Stoner is so unsettling in its description of family and work life that I think we could cure the earth's overpopulation problem if this book became mandatory reading in the eighth grade.
In deciding to read "Stoner" I read a comment that it was "the best novel you've never heard of." I now agree. It's up there with Tolstoy's works. If my next paragraph does not totally repel you, you should read "Stoner."
There are reasons you've never heard of it. It's not a pleasant story. There's no action. The first few chapters, about the protagonist's youth, are boring. The most interesting parts are during the protagonist's middle age. (With subtle irony the author made the protagonist an expert in the literature of the Middle Ages). The heroism of the protagonist is through his stoicism, not his efforts or cleverness. He's trapped in an unsatisfactory life.
That said, "Stoner" is one of the most moving novels I've ever read. Haunting. Real. It's about mistakes and lost opportunities, and human frailties and pettiness. It's about coming to an understanding of self and life.
It is not a spoiler to reveal that Professor William Stoner, the eponymous main character, dies at the end of this novel since that fact is revealed to us at the outset. His demise, as described there, causes so few ripples, such a small wake (and I use the word purposefully), that we must wonder if the narrative of his life can be worth reading. But it is--because this terribly, achingly ordinary life is made to sound extraordinary by the power and passion of the writing invested by John Williams in the character. And this is fitting inasmuch as the only real passion--albeit not the only love--in Stoner???s life is literature.
As in the naturalistic novels of the late nineteenth century, our attention is drawn to the harrowing burdens of Stoner???s existence far more than to his very few glories. He is victimized at so many turns that it is hard to consider him a protagonist, and yet, ultimately, his graceful stoicism and kindness gain in us a certain respect--especially in those of us who have ever asked ourselves if our lives will have made any difference to the world. The novel is a painful answer to that question. But if beauty is truth and if the discovery of truth does make live worth living, then this beautifully-crafted work is worth reading.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
“Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.”
― John Williams, Stoner
If one considers the total professional output of John Williams, it is pretty difficult to find his equal for sheer brilliance. Each of his 3 major novels (Stoner, Butcher's Crossing, Augustus) is diverse in style, tone, and approach, but each seems to possess a unique beauty and quiet, often undersold magnificence.
I really feel I could return and feast on his novels again and again (and rereading ANYTHING is usually a nonstarter with me). This is a novel that is so good, if you could plan to finish your life reading one book, if the minutes of your life were timed delicately, planned to the page, you could end your life by reading the last sentence of 'Stoner'.
'Stoner' stands as a novel that spans the time between WWI and WWII and presents a narrator and character, a simple son of the soil, a Don Quixote without a Sancho, who seems to fail at most of life's battles, but upon close inspection his very life, and thus by extension, all of our very lives, also represents something as beautiful as a distant nebula and sweet as mountain water. The struggles, the disappointments, the pains, are all made heroic by Stoner's stoicism. Even in mediocrity there exists greatness, and in failure lodges the seeds of greatness. Death, in the final analysis, is not a period but rather an ellipsis, a tragic falling short, and finally an epic omission for both the meek and the triumphant.
As an Audible Editor I listen for a living! British classics, YA novels, speculative fiction, and anything quirky, fascinating, or heart-wrenching.
John Williams' classic, which is having a bit of a renaissance at the moment, goes against the advice of every writing coach out there. It doesn’t show, it tells. It recounts the utterly quiet and straightforward life of a farm boy who becomes a mid-level English professor at the University of Missouri. He marries and has a child, and faces endless disappointments with a stoic and believable resolve. And if you don’t think that sounds like a story that would suck you right in, then you’re be wrong. Stoner is filled with equal parts melancholy and joy. It’s unputdownable - almost suspenseful in its own way - as it guides you thorough an unremarkable life that is nothing if not honorable, recognizable, and filled with truth. I don’t know how John Williams wrote a page-turner with such a subject, but he did, and I feel like my life is richer for having experienced it.
I started this book with doubt -- from description and reviews it sounded underwhelming; and it was banal for the first part of the book. While on the one hand Stoner seems to let life happen to him rather than at least making people and circumstances meet him halfway; he does make decisions that sometimes improve his life, that reflect his principles, that are sensitive to those arround him, that keep life on an even keel which seems to be his preference. In the grand scheme of things, his life did not leave much of a mark, but then, isn't that true for the majority. For at least the last half of the book, I was drawn to listening to the book whenever I could.
The writing is exquisite and crisp. Stoner's inner thoughts, reactions, wishes, emotions were insightful and felt so real.
Not necessarily. Individual preferences in processing stories are different, even our moods can be different. Sometimes I like reading, sometimes I like listening.
Margaret Atwood's Hand Maid's Tale. Not the nature of the story (although both fiction) but the degree of detail, most intimate thoughts of the protagonist, the " naked truth" told, calm yet merciless.
Did a good job articulating author/protagonist's calm, plain narrative dotted with exquisite agonies when he first experiences "Love" not until he was middle aged.
When Stoner started to learn about true human caring and love.
Beautiful in the sense that it's some totally honest, bare, guileless. Ordinary human condition, extraordinarily written.
Besides incessant listening to audiobooks, I also read on my Kindle at night, birdwatch, garden (roses, daylilies), and do genealogy.
This book stopped me cold in my tracks. It was so much more than I expected.
In summary, it is a brilliant and haunting melancholic tale of a would-be farmer who became an English professor, who was a good man, who could have been truly great but for a certain passivity, and who wound up at the end of his days with many regrets about the choices he made. I came away from this audiobook feeling deeply affected. I feel so much empathy for William Stoner.
The publisher's summary is excellent. It tells you everything you need to know. Robin Field did a fine job of narrating. This very unusual book will be on my all time favorites list.