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.
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