Saturday, August 21, 2010
STONER, John Williams
It is impossible to say why when I put so many books aside so quickly, yet stuck with this one--probably one of the saddest books I've ever read. But the sadness did not come from any earth-shaking events, not from evil deeds, or war or famine. But from the more prosaic nature of everyday life for a man who is helpless to do more than put one foot in front the other.
Finding his place in the world as a teacher both saved and ruined Stoner. Fate must do what it will to him because he will not risk the loss of his profession to save himself. You often see such focus on task with artists or ministers, but with teachers it is rare.
A poor farmboy, Stoner goes to the University in Columbia, Missouri and never leaves. First, a student, then a graduate student and finally a professor, this is his home for life.
And this gift he is given: to teach, paralyzes his ability to alter his horrible marriage, rectify his poor treatment by his colleagues, or save the fate of his daughter. Or hold on to love that finally presents itself. He simply pushes whatever comes aside and goes into his classroom to teach.
Because every word is perfect, because every sentiment rings true, because every action emanates so convincingly from his inner being, you are helpless not to follow Stoner to his end.
Stoner is reissued from its 1965 publication and takes place in the first half of the century.
What book meant this much to you?