Wednesday, January 05, 2011

First Wednesdays Book Review Club: STONER


Stoner, John Williams

John Williams' remarkable 1965 novel has recently been reprinted by The New York Review of Books and is now available to us again.


William Stoner, a farm boy in Missouri, is sent to university by his father, who tells his son it will be helpful to the family for him to learn more modern farming methods. But instead Stoner discovers the great passion of his life—literature and the teaching of it—and he goes on to earn a doctorate in the subject. He meets and marries a local girl, has a child, and teaches at the university for the rest of his life. He is under-appreciated in this and in most things.

This description makes it sound like nothing much happens in this book—and in a sense, it does not. This book is about choices we make, and Stoner’s choice to put his love of literature and teaching on such a high pedestal both makes and destroys him. He is passive when he should be active in nearly every instance in this book. He is so deeply afraid of being deprived of teaching that he loses everything else instead.

This was a marvelous book. Written beautifully and making its points with the utmost subtlety. Williams (1922-94) won the National Book Award for AUGUSTUS in 1973.

If you want to read a book that makes you think about the choices you make, this is a great choice.

FOR MORE REVIEWS, VISIT BARRIE SUMMY HERE.

21 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Oh, that does sound like a very interesting reflection on how our choices have consequences for us. Thanks for sharing it.

George said...

I loved STONER when I read it a year or so ago. What a well-crafted novel!

Scott Parker said...

Back in college, we read some Russian literature. Often, the stories would be like the equivalent of dropping the needle of a record player on an album, having the music start and play awhile, and then lifting the needle before the song ended. Sounds like this book is kind of like that, seeing as it's one of those slice of one man's life kind of books. I'd love to read the scenes where Stoner's dad and Stoner argued over the merit of literature versus the concreteness of farming.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Like the midwestern stoic that he was, his Dad didn't give him too much grief over it. Well worth reading though.

Charles Gramlich said...

BTW, I finally put up my review of Discount noir at my blog. I'd reviewed in Goodreads before but have been so busy.

Kathy Holmes said...

Oh, I love books about choices - am fascinated by the choices people make.

Richard R. said...

I feel like I should buy this, but I'm not sure when I'd get around to reading it. In your opinion, does the "voice" pull you along?

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

well now, that title got my attention, but not quite what I was thinking it would be. However, it does sound very interesting and worth a look.

v-word asholeds ;)

pattinase (abbott) said...

I found it amazing because it was such a straight forward account of life. I borrowed my copy or I'd send it to you. Tom Hanks has been pushing this book everywhere btw.

Stacy said...

That sounds intriguing. I do like quiet books like Gilead.

Having first read the title on Barrie's blog, it's not quite what I expected the book to be about! :)

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Rose said...

Sounds like a fascinating book--I've often thought how different my life might have been had I not made some of the choices I had made. I never went on to get my doctorate, but like Stoner, I chose teaching literature as my career, and my Dad, a farmer, never understood what I saw in Shakespeare:)

kaye said...

nice review, our choices do shape our lives. Thanks for stopping by.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wow, Rose. This book will probably speak to you.

Anonymous said...

The publisher compares him to Tobias Wolff (a favorite of mine) and Russell Banks. I may give it a try.

Jeff M.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Patti, glad you enjoyed the book. Not sure it's my cup of tea though. Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier today.

pattinase (abbott) said...

They are both favorites of mine, too. I saw the Wolff brothers together once talking about Duke of Deception and This Boy's Life. It was thrilling. And Continental Drift and Affliction are to favs.
It is a very subtle and painful book though because he is helpless to act.

Sarahlynn said...

One of my book clubs only reads older novels most of us missed the first time around, and it sounds like this one would qualify! I love a good, quiet novel. But passive/unable to act when he should? Oh, that drives me crazy every time.

Anonymous said...

I bet the Wolff brothers thing was great. I've read most of their stuff and Banks's short stories.

Jeff M.

Richard R. said...

I've ordered it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Hope you like it. I am biting my nails.

Barrie said...

How interesting. I was just talking to someone today about how this choice and that choice rendered things so that we ended up at such and such a place in life. And then I read your review! It sounds like a thought-provoking book.