- Create your FREE Amazon Business account to save up to 10% with Business-only prices and free shipping.
Other Sellers on Amazon
Download the free Kindle app and start reading Kindle books instantly on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required. Learn more
Read instantly on your browser with Kindle Cloud Reader.
Using your mobile phone camera - scan the code below and download the Kindle app.
Enter your mobile phone or email address
By pressing "Send link," you agree to Amazon's Conditions of Use.
You consent to receive an automated text message from or on behalf of Amazon about the Kindle App at your mobile number above. Consent is not a condition of any purchase. Message & data rates may apply.
Stoner (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – June 20, 2006
|New from||Used from|
Enhance your purchase
Discover an American masterpiece. This unassuming story about the life of a quiet English professor has earned the admiration of readers all over the globe.
William Stoner is born at the end of the nineteenth century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming family. Sent to the state university to study agronomy, he instead falls in love with English literature and embraces a scholar’s life, so different from the hardscrabble existence he has known. And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments: marriage into a “proper” family estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming experience of new love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude.
John Williams’s luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world.
The Amazon Book Review
Book recommendations, author interviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Special offers and product promotions
From the Publisher
|Augustus||Butchers Crossing||English Renaissance Poetry: A Collection of Shorter Poems||Nothing But the Night||Stoner: 50th Anniversary Edition||Stoner|
|About this book||Williams transforms and transcends the epistolary novel in his biographical treatment of the founder of the Roman Empire.||The myth of the making of the American west is dismantled in this tale of a Harvard dropout who seeks adventure hunting one of he last great buffalo herds.||An essential anthology of poetry from the period that saw one of the richest flowerings of English verse.||Williams’s first novel is a searing look at a man’s relationship with his absent father, and how early trauma manifests throughout one’s life.||A special hardback edition of the book to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of its publication that also includes a previously unpublished correspondence between John Williams and his agent about its writing and publication.||William Stoner emerges from his dirt-poor Missouri farming family to become an English scholar and an unlikely existential hero, standing in stark relief against an unforgiving world.|
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“One of the great unheralded 20th-century American novels …Almost perfect.” —Bret Easton Ellis
“Stoner is a novel of an ordinary life, an examination of a quiet tragedy, the work of a great but little-known writer.” —Ruth Rendell
“A beautiful and moving novel, as sweeping, intimate, and mysterious as life itself.” —Geoff Dyer
“I have read few novels as deep and as clear as Stoner. It deserves to be called a quiet classic of American literature.” —Chad Harbach
“The most beautiful book in the world.” —Emma Straub
"A poignant campus novel from the mid-'60s—an unjustly neglected gem." —Nick Hornby, People
“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
“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, 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 Kreider, 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
“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, The 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
“I’m not a big rereader, but I just reread Stoner by John Williams, and marveled once again at its remarkable combination of omniscience and intimacy.” — Jess Walter
- Publisher : NYRB Classics; 0 edition (June 20, 2006)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1590171993
- ISBN-13 : 978-1590171998
- Item Weight : 10.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5 x 0.66 x 7.99 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #15,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Masters' view of the University as a place for the dispossessed runs through Williams' novel. Stoner, the protagonist, is the only child of a struggling farm couple in Missouri who receives the opportunity to attend college in order to study scientific farming. He falls in love with literature instead, in a decision which alienates him from his parents and his past. It is part of the beauty and pain of the United States where people can make themselves. It also makes Stoner one of the world's dispossessed in what proves to be a difficult, if outwardly quiet life, teaching English for 38 years at the sole university he attended beginning with his undergraduate study. So too, the academic characters in this novel of academic life, including Stoner's friend Finch, his enemy and the chair of the English Department, Hollis Lomax, and his lover, Katherine Driscoll, and his mentor, Archer Sloane, share in common the love of study and various forms of dispossession which would make life outside the context of the university difficult for any of them.
Williams writes a beautifully restrained but full prose which gives insight into Stoner and his life. Stoner is a quiet, frequently passive individual who makes an unhappy marriage, loses the affection of his daughter, has an affair, and becomes stalled in his career at the rank of assistant professor. Due to the animus of the Department chair, Stoner is relegated to the teaching of Freshman English with an unfair and inconvenient schedule. With all his own shortcomings and inability to redress his situation, Stoner perseveres in the love of his life, literature, and ultimately learns about tying in his love with the sensual love of a woman. Stoner began his career as a so-so teacher unable to communicate his passion to his young and largely indifferent students but he learns over the course of his career how to make students feel something of the life of the mind. Study and the love of learning are contrasted in the book with learning "for the sake of" --- career, learning a skill, solving problems or attaining financial security. These competing views of education are in even sharper tension today than was the case during the setting of Stoner.
The novel is largely set in a state university in Columbia, Missouri. The events of Stoner's seemingly quiet life are juxtaposed with the momentous events of his 38-year teaching career which concludes in 1956 -- WW I, the Depression, WW II, and the Korean and Cold Wars. The influence of these events is palpable but somehow muted in the novel by the focus on the life of the mind and heart in the person of Stoner.
"Stoner" received little attention when it was first published, but the book gradually found its readers. I think the book will have most appeal to those readers with a serious interest in study or a serious love for their job of whatever type. It is a sad, beautifully written reflective book that I am glad to have found at last.
‘He felt himself at last beginning to be a teacher, which was simply a man to whom his book is true, to whom is given a dignity of art that has little to do with his foolishness or weakness or inadequacy as a man. It was a knowledge of which he could not speak, but one which changed him, once he had it, so that no one could mistake its presence.’
Whereas Stoner has his work his wife has nothing. Williams’ portrayal of what a woman can become without the support of work or education is magnificent. Edith, Stoner’s wife, is a frightful, immensely scary person. She has never learned to express herself because she was raised in the notion that a woman has no self to express. So for her expression takes the form of manipulation, rage and intense hatred. But for all her awfulness there is always this sliver of understanding and empathy.
‘She was educated upon the premise that she would be protected from the gross events that life might thrust in her way, and upon the premise that she had no other duty than to be a graceful and accomplished accessory to that protection, since she belonged to a social and economic class to which protection was an almost sacred obligation.’
Read this book!
It’s a book of characters so well drawn in their stuntedness and vulnerability you can almost see them walking down the street.
It’s a story of moral choices, of work, of love. It’s a story of an unfolding life, of noticing the choices one makes and how wrong one can be. And also right — even if only to oneself.
Stoner has to make moral choices — does he flunk a student for being inept or allow the dean to persuade him to let him pass — a student who is clearly wrong.
In the matter of love does he remain faithful to his wife in a loveless marriage and so giving up on his chance for a true great love.
The wars waged against Stoner are deceitful and unfair — his wife uses their daughter as the battlefield, the chairman Stoner’s lover.
Stoner is given sudden new life by the affair, but he finds love vulnerable to outside interference, just as the academy is vulnerable to the world.
The value and purpose of the academy is a key concern of the novel. Work and love — like Freud said — are all life is.
Stoner reminds us of the value of reading and study, of the time literature suddenly made some kind of sense and suggested a way of understanding life. We guard that inner space in which reading, thinking about being oneself happens. Our quiet inner spaces are increasingly threatened by what Stoner refers to as "the world" — the noise and the interference with our quiet.
Written in 1965 it is timeless.
Top reviews from other countries
Williams, through the unassuming and seemingly passionless and passive character of Stoner, paints a convincing portrait of a man who tries to find his place in the world. He wins some, and loses others in the process, as life deems fit to give or take from him. Quite early on in the novel, in his early days when he had quite fortuitously found a niche in the academic life at a university, his friend David Masters makes quite an accurate if unsolicited assessment of his personality and motivations: "you are the dreamer, the madman in a madder world, our own midwestern Don Quixote without his Sancho, gamboling under the blue sky.... but you have the taint, the old infirmity.... You, too, are cut out for failure; not that you'd fight the world. You'd let it chew you up and spit you out, and you'd lie there wondering what was wrong."
In many ways, Stoner fulfils Masters's grim prophecy, but Williams paints Stoner with much empathy and we find ourselves cheering him on when he escapes certain fate as a farmhand to carve out a respectable if unremarkable career as a literature tutor at the university where he had originally gone for agricultural studies. It is the one time we see Stoner take control of his life with some passion. When he marries Edith, a girl he meets serendipitously at a hoary professor's party, we hold our breaths at how the marriage would pan out, with his uncertain nature and her ice-cold and suspiciously vacuous veneer. We feel pangs of both delight and sorrow when we see his unexpected joy at fatherhood and the way that joy is eroded by his own possessive and malicious wife. But even that is an oversimplification of the complex nature of what Stoner goes through, because the strength of Williams's writing is his nuancing. There is no easy distinction between good and nasty characters, or clearcut happiness and sadness.
The novel too, is also emblematic of its time. Stoner's life is bookended by two world wars and he is as much affected by them as the men and women of his time. His perspective of death as a young man is shaped by the war when it touches his own peers: "When he had thought of death before, he had thought of it either as a literary event or as the slow, quiet attrition of time against imperfect flesh. He had not thought of it as the explosion of violence upon a battlefield, as the gush of blood from the ruptured throat".
This is a very satisfying novel which moved me with its reposeful tone and simple yet exemplary prose. I am glad it found success, albeit belatedly after Williams's death. Definitely a worthy masterpiece.
It doesn't stick to the format of a 'standard' fiction book, but rather is trying to convey something of how the mind works and the story is only there to help the explanation of this, rather than in its own right.
This book is not for most people I guess. I think there are parts that are either unintelligible or lack meaning; I'm not sure which.
However, the story, in its whole telling, covering one man's life in its entirety, has something to half-say and to stimulate thought about. About the forces that drive life along, that shape life, and the impotency that most of us are blind to. About the ignorance that envelopes our choices and our inability to fathom most of what happens to and around us.
William Stoner passes through all the usual milestones during his life - adolescence, the discovery of literature, love, parenthood, infidelity, career success and failure, and ill health, and he does so with a sense of both passivity and despair. The wider world intrudes into his private world on occasion - the loss of friends to war, the Great depression - but he rarely intrudes upon the wider world.
The repressed marital battles between Stoner and his wife Edith are superbly described, and are mirrored in the academic battles with Lomax, his nemesis at the university.
I can see the wider appeal of this book - it deals with universal emotions and life experiences, and I think every reader will feel some empathy with the main characters, even if they are not deserving of much sympathy.
There is not much that is remarkable about the life and character of William Stoner but John Williams writes so beguilingly that you feel really taken up with his life and experiences.
I was especially taken with his description of Stoner's unfulfilled marriage. Some of it had resonances of a number of marriages I have witnessed among friends. I felt especially sorry for their daughter Grace caught in the middle of it all.
When I finished it, I just wanted to read it again.