Stoner (John Williams)

Article by mark

Stoner Cover Image
By John Williams, John McGahern (Introduction by)
$14.95
ISBN: 9781590171998
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New York Review of Books - June 20th, 2006

It's rare to hear the word 'perfect' when a novel is being described. ‘Mesmerizing’, sure. ‘A tour de force’, absolutely. But perfect? This was the word used by Morris Dickstein when he described John William’s 1965 novel STONER in the New York Times Book Review. ‘Perfect’ was also the word that daunted me as I began STONER recently. I’d read many of the glowing reviews--some written half a century after its publication--but I was dubious. Would I see what everyone else saw? Well, I needn’t have worried; by the end of the first page I was hooked and couldn't let go until I’d read the whole book. STONER tells the story of John Stoner, an unremarkable midwestern professor of English during the early 20th century. He discovers literature in college and eventually teaches at that same Missouri institution. World War II comes and goes. Time passes unremarkably. Even Stoner, as a character, isn’t remarkable. His entire life story, which is encapsulated in a mere 278 pages, is almost without plot. Yet it is Stoner's mundanity, drawn with eloquence by Williams, that makes this story feel so true. There is no decorating the lives of Stoner or his peripheral characters, and it is this that draws the reader to them. Stoner has his faults, but he's so fully fleshed out that you finish the book believing that you intimately know this man. STONER concerns itself with the universal subjects that lesser books often shy away from: compassion, love, identity, truthfulness, hard work and faith in one’s own purpose. In straightforward language, it describes the year-to-year course of an insignificant life whose very insignificance illustrates the importance of each one of us.


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