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Stoner Audiobook

Stoner

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Publisher's Summary

William Stoner is born at the end of the 19th century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming family. Sent to the state university to study agronomy, he instead falls in love with English literature and embraces a scholar's life, far different from the hardscrabble existence he has known. And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments: marriage into a "proper" family estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming experience of new love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude.

John Williams's luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world.

©1965 John Williams (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“A perfect novel, so well told and beautifully written, so deeply moving, it takes your breath away." (Morris Dickstein, New York Times Book Review )

“A masterly portrait of a truly virtuous and dedicated man.” (New Yorker)

“An exquisite study, bleak as Hopper, of a hopelessly honest academic at a meretricious Midwestern university. I had not known…that the kind of unsparing portrait of failed marriage shown in Stoner existed before John Cheever.” (Los Angeles Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (1546 )
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4.3 (1360 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Mark J. Lura Chicago 07-12-11
    Mark J. Lura Chicago 07-12-11 Member Since 2010

    MJL

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A fascinating book"

    A book which is very fascinating because of its plainness. The story is of an interesting character who lives an ordinary life. Doesn't excel. Doesn't achieve greatness. Isn't a hero. Isn't a villain. Just a normal guy who stoically faces a failed marriage, who loses relationship with his family, who fights for right on the job and is tormented because of his choice. Yet told in a fashion which makes the book more like a verbal Grant Wood's American Gothic tale. Hopeful and sad at the same time. It will live with me for some time. Also, well interpreted by reader Robin Field.

    28 of 28 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 06-23-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A masterpiece"

    I had never heard of this book but was so intrigued by the description (also the description at Amazon) that I decided to give it a try. It is a masterpiece -- one of the great novels of the 20th century. (So why hadn't I ever heard of it?) It's the story of a farmboy who attends the University of MO to study agriculture and falls in love with literature and becomes a professor of English literature at the same school. The book spans World War I & II. The story is almost emotionally devasastating but the author writes with such restraint -- showing not telling -- that the power is heightened all the more. Concealed art at its finest. I couldn';t put it down. Not boring for a moment. The narrator, Robin Field, is spot on perfect for this book. Great, great stuff.

    73 of 75 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessica LINDENHURST, NY, United States 12-23-12
    Jessica LINDENHURST, NY, United States 12-23-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Incredible story with ALMOST perfect narration"

    First, this is now my favorite classic,which is funny because I had never heard of it before I found it on Audible. (They never teach the good stuff in high school). The reviews on this site pretty much sum up why it's so great, so if you're prepared to feel a bit sad when it's over then you'll probably love it.

    My only complaint is about the narration, but I would NOT give the narration less than 4 stars. The problem for me was that Robin Field uses the same cadence for every line that isn't being spoken by a character, and for a few that are. It's sort of like when you're learning about iambic pentameter in 11th grade English, and the whole class ends up reading in a kind of monotone sing-song. And THEN he WALKED out TO the BARN and RAKED. It wasn't quite that bad, and the rhythm was less obvious than iambic pentameter, but I found myself nodding my head a little to the pattern and it was a bit distracting. His VOICE, though, is utterly hypnotic,and once I got past that rhythm issue each time I started listening I got pulled in and didn't want to turn it off.

    Listening to this audiobook felt like listening to what my grandfather must have sounded like as a young man. That's part of the beauty of the story, too, that you truly feel like you're listening to someone's life story, not some glamorized, plot driven adventure. It touches you because it could BE you - it's one of those rare stories where the character's decisions are not what drives his story, they're just what determine how he lives with his simple disappointments.

    62 of 64 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anton Perm, Russia 10-13-12
    Anton Perm, Russia 10-13-12

    I like books and that's about it.

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    "A story of sadness and serenity"

    If ever I have read a book that moved me gently but to tears, that would be 'Stoner'. Akin to Stoner's happy days, I regretted the book ending so soon, but it could not come to a close at a better moment and the sadness that you will feel is going to be an acute one, which I surmised coming in waves and not continuously humming at the same pitch in 'Stoner'; the sadness will lap gently against you, you will be carried away. While pleasant dryness permeates Williams's writing, with the narrator's voice being attuned to it, there is little chance anyone could ever call it bland. If anything, this dryness intensifies complex emotions that the story evokes by acting as a counterweght, by keeping things mild, not overpronouncing them.

    I hope you appreciate this book and if you do, you can try "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" by Carson McCullers that is of a similar sentiment.

    62 of 64 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ESK Moscow, Russia 02-10-13
    ESK Moscow, Russia 02-10-13 Member Since 2011

    There are books of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite explodes once, whereas a book explodes a thousand times. ― Yevgeny Zamyatin

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Heartrending"

    I'd say it was emotionally exhausting to listen to the book. There are no wars depicted; no atrocities described. But there's the tragedy of one man, the broken, or rather ruined promises, the futility of aspiration, and failure of love. Yes, it's a story about an ordinary life, not about superheroes we look up to, but we never come across them in real life.
    It's a story that could have happened to any of us, about the things we're too afraid to do, and then regret not doing them. Vanity of vanities... Thus 'Stoner' is thought-provoking and pensive. Its sadness is reverberating. I listened to it in one sitting, but I had to stop the audio from time to time to recharge my 'battery'. And it took me some time to get down to it and write the review.
    It was so hard to listen to the book, because of the emotional involvement and empathy I felt towards the protagonist. A brilliant and moving novel.

    30 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Houston, TX, United States 03-10-11
    John Houston, TX, United States 03-10-11 Member Since 2017
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    "Everyman as University Professor"

    I have listened to approx 30 titles a year for last 5 years. Stoner goes in my top five fiction list. Not a wasted sentence; pitch perfect diction; not at all pedantic. An undiscovered classic of American literature.

    44 of 46 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DLC Fair Oaks, CA USA 07-31-12
    DLC Fair Oaks, CA USA 07-31-12 Listener Since 2005

    Don

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    "Exceptional"
    If you could sum up Stoner in three words, what would they be?

    Heartbreaking enthralling realistic


    What did you like best about this story?

    The consistency of the characters. Even when behavioral changes occurred they were not unrealistic but were fascinating.


    What does Robin Field bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He has a laconic delivery that is perfectly suited for this story.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I served in various positions in academia. One of the conclusions I made about the position of department chair was how difficult it was to accomplish positive change but the power to be negative is considerable. One of the dramatic conflicts in the book demonstrated that rather well.


    Any additional comments?

    I read or listen to as many as 3 or 4 books a week. Every once awhile one comes along that shows me the difference between a really good book and one that is solely entertaining- In my opinion this book is one of the best. If someone asks what the book is about it is very difficult to describe it in a way that will encourage one to read it. The reader or listener will be surprised how interesting and moving an ordinary life can be.

    23 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wolfpacker Fort Mill, SC 12-09-14
    Wolfpacker Fort Mill, SC 12-09-14 Member Since 2014

    Curtis

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What a Depressing Life!"

    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.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 09-17-14
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 09-17-14 Member Since 2016

    l'enfer c'est les autres

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A guidebook for life for people like me"

    Very good fiction can be better than non-fiction at explaining your place in the universe and this book does just that by considering the life and times of just one character, William Stoner. There's not much to his story but for those of us who have had a fairly mediocre life (and who embrace that mediocrity) Stoner's story helps us understand ourselves just a little bit better. It's good to see that university politics never change over time. The stakes are so small making the professors ever more vicious.

    As for the narrator, he made the events come alive and at times I felt as if I were alive in the early part of the last century while being transfixed by the story and the storyteller.


    14 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    loix 06-30-15
    loix 06-30-15 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Frustrating "read""

    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.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
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  • Spirit
    Cornwall
    12/2/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "amazing book"
    Would you listen to Stoner again? Why?

    I have listened to a lot of books but this is just the most amazing book. So simple, emotional and true. Very hard to put in words. An ordinary life not a hollywood one. I cried when I got to the end. Will miss Mr Stoner


    What other book might you compare Stoner to, and why?

    Not sure this does compare to anything else. Maybe a little like Willa Cather


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    The graduate student scene when the student is being quizzed by the 4 profesors. Very tense!


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Deeply sad book but immensely true. I did cry


    Any additional comments?

    I'm going to be very evangelical about this book -everyone should read it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • halex
    10/11/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Painful narrator"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Improved narrator


    Has Stoner put you off other books in this genre?

    No


    Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Robin Field?

    Myself


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment as the text was quite good, just the reading style was tedious in the extreme


    Any additional comments?

    Avoid the audiobook. If you are looking for an account of a boring, aimless and obvioulsy doomed existence try reading it on your kindle.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Android
    9/22/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "pause for thought"
    Where does Stoner rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Stoner is one of the most important books I have read


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Stoner


    What about Robin Field’s performance did you like?

    The thin reedy quality


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Learn where to draw the line


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Sheila
    8/3/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Magnificent writing. Moving story of life."
    What made the experience of listening to Stoner the most enjoyable?

    Identifying with human frailties.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Stoner, an everyman: unique in who he is, common in how imperfect he is.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    His moments with his lover.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, I was happy to come back to it but missed it in between listening times!


    Any additional comments?

    Highly recommend this for the quality of writing and the beauty of the story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Maddy
    7/10/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not as depressing as the blurb suggests"

    This is one of those audiobooks which can be made or marred by the reader. In this case, the reader adopts a lugubrious and melancholy voice which makes Stoner (man and book) seem more miserable than he and it actually are. Here is an ordinary man of no great achievement who is stubborn when he should give way and submits when he should assert himself. There are a lot of us like this. Yet this is an interesting book and I enjoyed it and it is well read. Recommended

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Cathy
    Oxford, UK
    7/7/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A very sweet story"
    If you could sum up Stoner in three words, what would they be?

    sweet, gentle, sad


    Which character – as performed by Robin Field – was your favourite?

    Stoner himself


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I could quite easily read this in one go.


    Any additional comments?

    This was a book of its time. This unremarkable man had a sad life which he wouldn't lead now

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • hfffoman
    Kent
    7/6/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A thoroughly unenjoyable listen"
    Would you be willing to try another book from John Williams? Why or why not?

    This is my second John Williams novel. The first was good, but I won't try another


    How could the performance have been better?

    The performance was rasping and pedantic, like someone reading from the bible and making an effort to be as dull as possible.


    Any additional comments?

    I could not listen to the end. I don't mind that the story is sad and depressing. I do mind that Stoner's behaviour is not only exasperating but unconvincing.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    Cornwall, UK
    5/17/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An Unexpected Classic"

    This is a dry, quiet, stoical description of a complete life beginning in the 1890s and ending in the late 1950s. At the beginning, it seemed too dry, and I wondered whether I should continue. But, gradually, as the life of this quiet, socially-inhibited academic moves forward, it slowly exerted a grip, and I started to get eager to get back to it. It becomes a story about life itself. Happiness is ephemeral and Stoner often finds himself wondering what life should mean. A failed marriage, a beloved daughter who becomes distant, a touching but doomed love affair, and an academic career crowned by the writing of one solid but soon forgotten study of medieval English. It has moments of intense sadness and stoicism and the constant physicality of our ageing is a constant backcloth. Stoner reflects at the end, "If I had been stronger; if I had known more; if I could have understood". Unfortunately, none of us have a script before we start. We have to work it out as we go along. This novel is psychologically astute and captures the essence of what it means to be alive.I loved it. It was one of the best books I have come across. As I listened, I felt an excitement to be discovering a classic, where simple prose, has extraordinary, sometimes breathtaking, depth and power. Superb.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Gilly
    5/1/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A beautifully written book, beautifully read."
    Would you listen to Stoner again? Why?

    I may well. The gentleness of the story tells persuades me that there is much I will gain from a re-read.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Firstly, the start, describing him home life on the farm and later when he discovered what true love was.


    Any additional comments?

    Try it - it is different and better.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    1/28/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A life perfectly summarised"

    There is a short section right towards the end of this excellent novel that perfectly and concisely summarises all that has gone before - puts everything in context, identifies the meaning, the significance and draws together all that has been proposed and learned in constructing and estimation of this life.

    It is very easy to draw a comparison and contrast chart with Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach and to look again at the shortcomings of the last novel that I read before this one - Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. But, ideally, great novels and literature should be allowed and deserve to stand and be considered on their own. The dry, mid-Western tone, the stale taste of classroom, library and books, the heaped insignificance of small conversations and long carried burdens of petty resentments and the difficult conversation not had.....I loved every page of it and felt that the final section delivered back more than my money’s worth as a reflective exercise on the considerations and insight that make up a life closely observe.

    The fact that the author departed the scene before all of the plaudits came adds to the piquancy of the sensation that has and will grow up around this one. It has all the essential elements that is required of the contemporary literary myth - but delivers an engaging and wonderful read and is a great reminder of just how good mid-twentieth century American literature became. Think DeLillo, think Updike, think Richard Yates, read John Williams!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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