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Stoner (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – June 20, 2006


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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (June 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171993
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171998
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (516 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This reprint of Williams's remarkable 1965 novel offers a window on early 20th century higher education in addition to its rich characterizations and seamless prose. Sent by his hard-scrabble farmer father to the University of Missouri to study agriculture, William Stoner is sidetracked by an obsessive love of literature and stimulated by a curmudgeonly old professor, Archer Sloane. Sloane helps Stoner avoid service in WWI, and Stoner eventually becomes an assistant professor. He then meets and marries a St. Louis beauty, Edith, who quickly subjugates her contemplative, passive husband. As decades pass, Stoner entrenches himself deep into the life of the mind, developing into a master teacher but never finding solace in the outside world. Stoner's single joy is Grace, their daughter, whom Edith appropriates as a weapon in her very personal war against Stoner's quest for inner peace. Williams (1922–1994) won the NBA for Augustus (1973), and NYRB will republish his western, Butch's Crossing next year. Williams's prose flows in a smooth, efficient current that demands contemplation. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“The book begins boldly with a mention of Stoner’s death, and a nod to his profound averageness: ‘Few students remembered him with any sharpness after they had taken his courses.’ By the end, though, Williams has made Stoner’s disappointing life into such a deep and honest portrait, so unsoftened and unromanticized, that it’s quietly breathtaking.” —The Boston Globe

“Williams’ descriptions of the experience of reading both elucidate and evince the pleasures of literary language; the ‘minute, strange, and unexpected combinations of letters and words’ in which Stoner finds joy are re-enacted in Williams’ own perfect fusion of words.” —n+1

"Stoner, by John Williams, is a slim novel, and not a particularly joyous one. But it is so quietly beautiful and moving, so precisely constructed, that you want to read it in one sitting and enjoy being in it, altered somehow, as if you have been allowed to wear an exquisitely tailored garment that you don’t want to take off." —The Globe and Mail

"It is a marvelous discovery for everyone who loves literature." — Ian McEwan, BBC Radio 4

"One of the great forgotten novels of the past century. I have bought at least 50 copies of it in the past few years, using it as a gift for friends....The book is so beautifully paced and cadenced that it deserves the status of classic." —Colum McCann's Top 10 Novels, The Guardian

"Stoner is undeniably a great book, but I can also understand why it isn’t a sentimental favorite in its native land. You could almost describe it as an anti-Gatsby....Part of Stoner's  greatness is that it sees life whole and as it is, without delusion yet without despair....The novel embodies the very virtues it exalts, the same virtues that probably relegate it, like its titular hero, to its perpetual place in the shade. But the book, like professor William Stoner, isn’t out to win popularity contests. It endures, illumined from within."— Tim Krieder, The New Yorker

"It’s simply a novel about a guy who goes to college and becomes a teacher. But it’s one of the most fascinating things that you’ve ever come across." — Tom Hanks, Time

"Stoner is written in the most plainspoken of styles….Its hero is an obscure academic who endures a series of personal and professional agonies. Yet the novel is utterly riveting, and for one simple reason: because the author, John Williams, treats his characters with such tender and ruthless honesty that we cannot help but love them." — Steve Almond, Tin House

 

"[T]he work deserves to be called a 'perfect novel' — there's not a misplaced word or a trace of contrivance." -Boldtype

 

"The best book I read in 2007 was Stoner by John Williams. It’s perhaps the best book I’ve read in years." -Stephen Elliott, The Believer

 

"John Williams's Stoner is something rarer than a great novel - it is a perfect novel, so well told and beautifully written, so deeply moving, that it takes your breath away." -The New York Times Book Review

 

"Williams didn't write much compared with some novelists, but everything he did was exceedingly fine...it's a shame that he's not more often read today...But it's great that at least two of his novels [Stoner, Butcher's Crossing] have found their way back into print." -The Denver Post

 

“A masterly portrait of a truly virtuous and dedicated man” —The New Yorker

 

“Why isn’t this book famous…Very few novels in English, or literary productions of any kind, have come anywhere near its level for human wisdom or as a work of art.” —C.P. Snow

 

“Serious, beautiful and affecting, what makes Stoner so impressive is the contained intensity the author and character share.” —Irving Howe, New Republic

 

“A quiet but resonant achievement” —The Times Literary Supplement

 

"Perhaps the greatest example of minimalism I’ve ever read...Stoner is a story of great hope for the writer who cares about her work." -Stephen Elliott

 

Stoner by John Williams, contains what is no doubt my favorite literary romance of all time. William Stoner is well into his 40s, and mired in an unhappy marriage, when he meets Katherine, another shy professor of literature. The affair that ensues is described with a beauty so fierce that it takes my breath away each time I read it. The chapters devoted to this romance are both terribly sexy and profoundly wise.”—The Christian Science Monitor


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Customer Reviews

This novel is beautifully written.
Mary Jean
Also a sad story about the life of a brave man who lost his love and endured the rest of his life without hope.
Pernille Arneberg
The moment I started to read this book, I did not want it to end, and I took my time to finish it.
book snob

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

196 of 201 people found the following review helpful By Bucherwurm on July 1, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
On the first page of this fine novel the author tells us that the protagonist is a man of no particular esteem, a university professor who, after 38 years of teaching at the University of Missouri rose no higher than the lowly rank of Assistant Professor.

William Stoner came to the University of Missouri from a poor farm, became entranced by medieval and renaissance English literature and went on to get a PhD in that field. He was a shy man, and throughout his life had but two real friends. His wife was not one of those two. Within a couple of months of marriage Stoner realized his marriage was doomed to failure. Early on, a situation arose at the university in which Stoner, adhering to principle, earned the lifelong enmity of his department head. Another situation arose that offered Stoner a chance at happiness, and that failed.

One reviewer of this book wrote that he didn't see why anyone would want to read this book about a loser. But was he a loser? In an interview the author, John Williams, stated that he felt that Professor Stoner was a "hero." Surely this is a story of a man who really never got anywhere in life, his marriage was a failure, his parenting poor, and he never was really a vibrant member of the university faculty. Yet in some ways Stoner never gave up. Lacking innate teaching skills he worked hard at it, and became a popular teacher. He was never bitter, and, though struggling as a parent and father, he held on.

So there are two ways of looking at our "hero" or "loser." I found the book to be a wonderfully different view of a man's life. Certainly we can identify with him in some of our own failures, with our own wishes that maybe somethings in our lives might have been different.
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245 of 255 people found the following review helpful By Michael Leone on July 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
I'd never heard of this author or this book until I read an essay about him in an old back issue of Ploughshares by the novelist Dan Wakefield. I was suspect, too, because I'm not one for academic novels, unless they're farcical, because the only thing there seems to be at stake in academic novels is tenure, which in my opinion, doesn't make for such great reading. Well, not so in Stoner. Stoner is a quiet look at a man's largely unheroic and drab life, "an adventureless tale" as Joyce wrote (and in many respects William Stoner, the protagonist, comes right out of Dubliners). The feat of this book is that Williams makes the diurnal and fairly dull activities of an academic utterly riveting. How does he do it? By not being precious or pretentious about it, which is how so many other writers would have handled the material. Instead, Williams believes in the integrity of his hero, for whom nothing is easily achieved, or for that matter, very attractive. Even Stoner's honeymoon is a fairly squalid affair, and somehow, as bad as the story gets -- and it doesn't get bad in a dramatic or gimmicky way, just bad in the sense that Stoner never really experiences any joy in his life -- we keep reading. The book is grim, yes, and yet it will leave you feeling oddly enthralled. Read it.
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87 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Mark on March 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
In this remarkable, overlooked work, John Williams chooses as his central character an undistinguished English professor (Stoner), who lives a largely uneventful life teaching at a drab Midwestern university. Neither Stoner's wife, nor his colleagues, nor his students think much of him. Yet the degree to which Williams succeeds in bringing the reader to identify with -- and care for -- his most unlikely protagonist is nothing short of a triumph. The final pages, in particular, are sad, transcendent, and unforgettable.
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on August 5, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Every once in a while, a worthy but largely unknown novel registers on the literary radar screen and receives deserved attention. Dow Mossman's verbally hyperactive but extraordinary THE STONES OF SUMMER is one such example, rediscovered a few years ago by Mark Moskowitz's STONE READER documentary. John Williams's STONER is another, revitalized by Morris Dickstein's June 2007 paean in the New York Sunday Times Book Review. A thousand thanks, Mr. Dickstein - STONER is indeed a marvelous tale of American life and academia in the first half of the 20th Century.

Published in 1965, STONER was the second of Williams's three novels. Despite the date and serendipitous title, this is far from a beat or hippie generation story. To the contrary, hero William Stoner is a salt of the earth middle American, born and raised on a modest family farm in Missouri at the beginning of the 20th Century. Through intelligence, hard work, and good fortune, Stoner enters the University of Missouri to study modern agriculture. Williams presents his hero as a classically naïve farm boy, utterly awed by the buildings, the books, the other students, and the general aura of academe. All goes well until Stoner the freshman literature class of Archer Sloane. Despite being publicly embarrassed by Sloane for his inability to explain a Shakespearean sonnet about lost love (which also foreshadows his own later life), Stoner nevertheless discovers his true calling in literature. He changes majors, obtains his degree, and ultimately accepts a teaching position at his alma mater. One of his few good friends from the university, Dave Masters, subsequently describes the young Stoner with dead-on precision as "our own midwestern Don Quixote without his Sancho" - prophetic words, indeed.
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