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» » Stoner (New York Review Books Classics)
Stoner (New York Review Books Classics) e-book

Author:

John Williams,John McGahern

Language:

English

Category:

Fiction

Subcategory:

Genre Fiction

ePub size:

1929 kb

Other formats:

mbr doc lrf lit

Rating:

4.2

Publisher:

NYRB Classics (June 20, 2006)

Pages:

288

ISBN:

1590171993

Stoner (New York Review Books Classics) e-book

by John Williams,John McGahern


In a pivotal scene in John Williams' novel, "Stoner" (1965) three young graduate students are discussing the nature of university education over their cups.

In a pivotal scene in John Williams' novel, "Stoner" (1965) three young graduate students are discussing the nature of university education over their cups. It is the type of discussion that doubtless has happened many times. The participants are William Stoner, the protagonist of the book, and his friends Gordon Finch and David Masters. While the focus of the novel is on Stoner, this scene belongs to David Masters.

But it's great that at least two of his novels have found their way back into print. A masterly portrait of a truly virtuous and dedicated man -The New Yorker. Although the title misled me at first, it turned out to be one of the finest pieces of literature I have ever read.

The critic Morris Dickstein has said that John Williams’s Stoner is something much rarer than a great novel – it is a. .

The critic Morris Dickstein has said that John Williams’s Stoner is something much rarer than a great novel – it is a perfect novel. It revolves around a protagonist named William Stoner and traces his life from matriculating at a fictionalized version of the University of Missouri, his academic career, his marriage, and ultimately his death.

Williams won the 1973 National Book Award in fiction for Augustus. His novel Stoner is also published as an NYRB Classic

One of the finest novels of the West ever to come out of the West. Butcher's Crossing is perhaps the finest western in literature. John Williams may have published only a few novels, but they were all just about perfect. Williams won the 1973 National Book Award in fiction for Augustus. His novel Stoner is also published as an NYRB Classic. Michelle Latiolais is an associate professor of English at the UC Irvine. Her novel, Even Now, won a Gold Medal from the Commonwealth Club of California.

Lists with This Book. 460 books - 733 voters. In the introduction by John McGahern he relates something that Mr. Williams said that resonates with me as well. Williams complains about the changes in the teaching of literature and the attitude to the text "as if a novel or poem is something to be studied and understood rather than experienced. John Williams is able to kill you softly with his immovable patience, his prose which is like the most patient thing in the world, and which builds and builds by inching closer and closer to the precipice. Precisely because he is not flashy.

Stoner is a 1965 novel by the American writer John Williams. Stoner has been categorized under the genre. Stoner has been categorized under the genre of the academic novel, or the campus novel.

JOHN WILLIAMS (1922-1994) was born and raised in Northeast Texas. Despite a talent for writing and acting, Williams flunked out of a local junior college after his first year. He reluctantly joined the war effort, enlisting in the Army Air Corps, and managing to write a draft of his first novel while there.

Stoner is a story of great hope for the writer who cares about her work. 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.

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.
Hulbine
In a pivotal scene in John Williams' novel, "Stoner" (1965) three young graduate students are discussing the nature of university education over their cups. It is the type of discussion that doubtless has happened many times. The participants are William Stoner, the protagonist of the book, and his friends Gordon Finch and David Masters. While the focus of the novel is on Stoner, this scene belongs to David Masters. With the bravado and certainty of youth, Masters says that the University exists "for the dispossessed of the world; not for the students, not for the selfless pursuit of knowledge, not for any of the reasons that you hear." Although he is seemingly cynical about the role of the University, Masters is quite the opposite. He says: "We do no harm, we say what we want, and we get paid for it; and that's a triumph of natural virtue, or pretty damn close to it."

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.

Robin Friedman
Sudert
Last year the New York Review of Books republished a half-century old novel by John Williams titled Stoner. Although the title misled me at first, it turned out to be one of the finest pieces of literature I have ever read. It revolves around a protagonist named William Stoner and traces his life from matriculating at a fictionalized version of the University of Missouri, his academic career, his marriage, and ultimately his death. While meeting the definition of a campus novel, in actuality it is about a man whose one pure and unfailing love is for literature, even as the rest of his life in mired in defeat and mediocrity.

The first page of the book opens with a brief description of the medieval manuscript that was dedicated to the university library by Stoner’s faculty colleagues upon his death. The prologue notes they “held him in no particular esteem when he was alive, speak of him rarely now; to the older ones, his name is a reminder of the end that awaits them all, and to the younger ones it is merely a sound which evokes no sense of the past and no identity with which they can associate themselves or their careers.” That glum note sets the tone for the rest of the book. Stoner, the son of poor dirt farmers, originally enrolls in the university as an agricultural student focused on soil renewal. Upon hearing a professor named Archer Sloane lecture in his sophomore year, however, Stoner sets upon a different path and embraces literature as his calling.

Eventually, Sloane comes to admire the young man and encourages him to pursue his doctorate, hiring him as a teacher for the university at the same time. Stoner earns his master’s degree and later his Ph.D., and befriends two fellow students, Dave Masters and Gordon Finch. Finch will become the dean of the college and his only consistent ally, while Masters cannily predicts that the university is a sanctuary for each of them from the broader world and how their futures are entwined with it, but then Masters is sadly killed in the First World War. Sloane eventually dies in his office alone and is not discovered for two days, a foreshadowing of the protagonist’s own isolated end. At the same time, Stoner pursues and eventually marries a woman named Edith, who proceeds to make the next forty years of his life miserable. The daughter of a repressed childhood, her inability to reach out and connect with another person causes the couple prolonged unhappiness, and within a month of the wedding their marriage descends into petty retribution by her whenever Stoner seems to become too happy. The only benefit of their marriage, their daughter Grace, whom Stoner loves dearly, is slowly taken from him as Edith crafts her into a frigid and isolated child. Grace in turn enters a brief, loveless marriage and descends into alcoholism.

The only other person Stoner loves is a graduate student named Katherine Driscoll whom he meets in his forties. For a year, Stoner has happiness, but eventually the outside world intrudes upon their romance and it is forced to end with Katherine leaving town without a goodbye. Years later, Stoner discovers she surreptitiously dedicated her book to him. It is the only moment in literature I have ever come close to crying. After his romance with Katherine ends, Stoner spends the next twenty years in a silent war with his department head, Hollis Lomax, a hunchback (physical deformity being a hint at moral cripples in the book) whose animosity Stoner earned when he tried to fail an incompetent pupil of Lomax. It is only when Stoner finally grows indifferent to Lomax’s reprisals that his situation improves.

By the end of the novel, Stoner is alone, trapped in a loveless marriage, with an alienated daughter, mostly ignored by his colleagues and students, separated from his one true romantic partner, with a hostile boss, and on the precipice of mandatory retirement. Then he develops intestinal cancer and it metastasizes. The surgery to remove the tumor proves a failure and Stoner slowly dies at home. In the final pages of the novel, Stoner lies on his deathbed and flips through the pages of his only book. The words themselves are already forgotten, even by him, but he feels a sense of excitement pass through his fingertips at the feel of the paper. It was only through his love of literature that he could define himself. Although the world may intrude upon his life and shatter all else that he loves, it could not destroy the thing by which he derived meaning. In a final moment of clarity, his soul cleans itself of all else but that love and he dies pure.

The afterword of the modern edition includes an interesting series of letters between the author and his agent. Williams was little noted in his own lifetime, and haunted in many ways by the abuse of alcohol and wartime experiences which echo in the pages of the book. This is a novel that becomes instantly relatable to anyone who has ever felt like a failure or endured the insults of others, particularly those we love, in silence. Although this book is rarely heard of today, it is one of the few pieces of American prose that pierces the shiny veneer of our country’s life and shows the melancholy of isolation that haunts so many.

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