[EPUB] ✰ Stoner ✶ John Williams – Peakpopa.info
Those who can, do Those who can t, teach.What to do when everything goes wrong Work, marriage, parenthood, eventually health Plenty of benevolent advices and platitudes will whizz around your ears, to help you to bounce back Remember, it is all in your mind Happiness is the result of your approach to life, not of what happens to you Revolt, anger, complaining or denial won t change anything Focus on what is instead of on what should be Accept, accept, accept Take one step at time, keep moving, keep working to what you want in life.In our times of voluntarist belief in shaping our own destiny, only fools refuse or refrain to act or at least to try to take control of their own life.But perhaps the only sensible thing to do is keep breathing Minimal action, minimal reaction Just embrace plain and simple old fashioned and untimely Stoicism Like Stoner Wisdom lies in tuning our lives to the divine order of the universe and to want what actually is the case As emotions have an external source, as we are being moved, touched, affected, impassioned, be the Master of Yourself and control your emotions Do not strive for pleasure Be un touched Only a fool tries to impose his own selfish desires upon reality and is the plaything of his emotions and desires The consolations of philosophy applied to ordinary life Amongst the teachers I know, there is a bittersweet running joke, when talking about the essence of their profession Why does someone chooses to become a teacher And, bursting with self mockery laughter, they sing in unison Those who can, do Those who can t, teach Stoner s friend Dave Masters, could probably agree with it, when he is partly ironically speaking about the true nature of universitiesIt is an asylum or what do they call them now a rest home, for the infirm, the aged, the discontent, and the otherwise incompetent This novel strongly reminisced academic life, its seclusion and petty machinations Not having Stoner s gift of endurance, I fled, abandoning the dream of a life of learning and science after 6 years of struggle, as university was not the refuge and source of wisdom this naive working class daughter hoped for, but a ruthless, almost egotistic habitat crushing me a place where teaching didn t really matter As Ian trenchantly points out, if we empathize with Stoner s dire life, couldn t it be because of our own wounds and experiences too Imagine yourself living together with Stoner However wise and admirable his stoicism, there is also a solipsistic aspect to it According to his creator, Stoner is altogether a happy manHe had a very good life He had a better life than most people do, certainly He was doing what he wanted to do, he had some feeling for what he was doing, he had some sense of the importance of the job he was doingBut what about the effect of his stoic attitudes on the lives of the others in his life His parents, wife, daughter, lover Does he really care I disliked Williams s portrayal of Edith, Stoner s vicious battle axe of a wife I guess I am not conversant enough with the perception of American women in that part of history, but her one dimensional depiction hardly exceeds the caricature image of the neurotic frigid female, like the Madge in Frank Zappa s Harry you re a beast You paint your head Your mind is dead You don t even know what I just said THAT S YOU AMERICAN WOMANHOOD You re phony on top You re phony underneath You lay in bed grit your teeth MADGE, I WANT YOUR BODY HARRY, GET BACK MADGE, IT S NOT MERELY PHYSICAL HARRY, YOU RE A BEAST.Coming no further than these personal musings, I feel not able to do justice to this poignant novel, hitting a little too close to home, for than one reason Yes, Stoner is as unforgettable a character as many reviews point out Yes, in many respects, I have known a Stoner We were married for 16 years He was, like Stoner, the most stoic person I ever met He illustrated his philosophy lectures with a cartoon from D Palmer s Looking at Philosophy The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter afterwards showing it to our children to teach them equanimity when things didn t work out as they would like they did As I am not that stoic like he was, because of its ending, I didn t have the heart to pass the book to him. THIS WAS MY BEST BOOK OF 2016 It was a hard decision it was a choice between this andThe Vegetarian by Hang Kang But I had to think which book taught be the most, and which book helped me the most I enjoyed them both immensely, I loved them, but this one set me on my path in life thus, I will always be grateful for John Williams and his Stoner He opened the book and as he did so it became not his own He let his fingers rifle through the pages and felt a tingling, as if those pages were alive The tingling came through his fingers and coursed through his flesh and bone he was minutely aware of it, and he waited till it contained him, until the old excitement that was like horror fixed him where he lay William Stoner has a terrible life his marriage is a disaster his daughter resembles her damaged mother his teaching career is hindered by an argument with a fellow faculty member, and he is subjected to continual waves of misery All in all, it s a sad life it s his life However, through all the shit times, and the occasional glimpses of happiness, one thing keeps him animated it s a thing every reader knows a love of words, a love of books and a love of the wonderment of literature I will never forget the journey I shared with Stoner in these pages He is a flawed man When he was a student he had no real ambition or drive He didn t know what he wanted to do, but he knew what he didn t want to do he didn t want to be a farmer like his farther A university lecture inspired him with the marvels of Shakespeare he asked him a question, a question that changed Stoner s life The result was a switch in academic discipline and an enthusiastic perusal of everything literature based Stoner became engrossed with his work he quickly forgot about the outside world, and refused to take part in the war effort This is a feeling I know all too well When one is completely engrossed in reading, obsessed even, it becomes difficult to pay attention to reality If you ve made it this far into my review, then I probably don t need to tell you that Stoner had what he needed he had his books But, life isn t always that simpleHe had come to that moment in his age when there occurred to him, with increasing intensity, a question of such overwhelming simplicity that he had no means to face it He found himself wondering if his life were worth the living if it had ever been A profound question to ask oneself, and I truly think this helped to consolidate his decisions Student life comes to an end for most folk For Stoner there is no end University is his home it is his life it is his passion and his drive it is the one and only constant in his existence So why would he ever leave it Why would he ever give it up The student becomes the teacher, and Stoner extends his stay for a lifetime He has nothing else to cling to, only a love for his field of scholarship I cannot quite express how much I sympathise with this character here As a student of literature, and a huge hobby reader, sometimes there seems to be little else on the horizon but to peruse one s passion For Stoner though, his choice was the only one he could ever have made His existence is only really for one purpose, and because of this he realised very early on his consequential fateIt s like it just all goes around and around and keeps on going It makes you wonder As Stoner gets older his peers begin to die In this he sees what awaits him he has the stark realisation that he, too, will die This may seem trivial and an obvious fact of life, though a realisation of such magnitude can really alter character Stoner has a midlife crises he has a glimpse of what his life could have been like had he married his soul mate his love and intellectual equal It is a shame for Stoner that such a thing came when he was already settled, but, again, that s just life This problematic relationship sets him even further on his course I don t need to tell you about the ending It is an obvious conclusion for such a book, though I will say that its delivery was nothing short of perfection Never before have I read a book in which the entire thing is embodied in its final few words I m amazed I m shaken I m stunned I m numb Why you should read this I don t often go as far as to explicitly state something like this in a review Reading is personal and subjective My reviews are just my opinion they may not be shared by others With this, however, I would go as far to say that this should be read by every reader, every reader who has felt the sharp pangs that literature can evoke Here is a man who is completely lost here is a character that has nothing really to live for here is a man who is lost in the words, and it s his salvation And this is his life story This is not a simple novel It is a bildungsroman that is tragic, emotive and even inspiring This book opened my eyes to many things I learnt a great deal about life and myself in the process Trust me, fellow bibliophiles, go read it This is something really special. 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 SolitudeJohn 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 After 63 pages Stunned by Stoner This is agonisingly wonderful At the end Finished Him and me Exquisite but exhausted Then I immediately started rereading something I have only previously done with children s picture books It is, without question, my joint favourite book ever The other, utterly different ones are Titus Groan Gormenghast which I reviewed HERE and the Heaven and Hell trio which I reviewed HERE But it s hard to explain its mesmerising power in a way that does it justice What Sort of Story It opens with a page of downbeat, but carefully crafted spoilers, rather like an obituary, after which, the story is told straightforwardly and chronologically, from William Stoner s last days at school and on his parents farm, to life as a university student, then university faculty member, marriage, parenthood, affair, and finally his death His main joy is literature, and the university that enables him to share that love with others, reflected in simple but heartfelt words on his retirement, Thank you all for letting me teach It sounds dull, banal or both, but it s not It s heartbreakingly beautiful, without being sentimental, and because Stoner is never without hope, I didn t find it a depressing.Contrasts Eloquence and Inarticulacy, Strong and Weak, Success and Failure, Gain and LossIt s a book about language and literature, and yet inarticulacy is a recurring theme it is the direct cause of most of the pain, but also the trigger for his main happiness in a compulsory literature review, it is his inability to understand, or perhaps to explain his understanding of Shakespeare s Sonnet 73 that triggers a life long passion and career This reticence or inability to talk about innermost thoughts is perhaps one reason why the causes of Edith s behaviour are only hinted at anything explicit would set the wrong tone and might not have been appropriate when published.Almost all Stoner s dreams come true, but happiness is always elusive and ephemeral The good things are lost or, worse still, taken away by someone he had hoped would be his love or friend Edith and Lomax, respectively Both antagonists are sensitive, damaged people as is Stoner and Lomax even shares his love of literature for similar reasons escape One message of the book is carpe diem seize the day, or in youth speak YOLO , which is also reflected in Sonnet 73 s focus on decay, death, and enjoying what we have while we can.Stoner can be brave, such as swapping from an agricultural degree course with its predictable future to an English literature degree, inspired by a sonnet he struggled to explain and yet he doesn t have the courage to tell his parents until after they ve attended his graduation.What Sort of Man Some see Stoner as passive and weak Certainly there are many times when I wanted him to act differently, or just to act at all in particular, to stand up for his daughter and his lover Instead, he is quietly stoical, which is apt, given his areas of interest include classical Greek literature His quiet stoicism, born of parental fortitude and nurtured by habit and habitat runs too deep for him to act as others would.He loses everything he values even the rapport with his students and the ability to enjoy his books and in many respects, he is a failure as son, husband, father, lover, even scholar but he keeps going, never bearing a grudge, trying his best So sad, and yet curiously inspirational.There are some autobiographical aspects from a dirt poor farm to university lecturer, and of personality and some demons See this interview with Nancy Gardner Williams HERE.Time and PlaceUnlike some readers, I find Stoner entirely believable, especially when you consider the much higher social cost of divorce back then Would the story be any happier if it were set today It would certainly be different, but flawed people raise flawed people Tolstoy famously wrote All happy families are alike each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way and that would be just as true of one unhappy family transplanted from one period in history to another In a contemporary setting, even if he had married Edith unlikely , she would surely have got help bi polar abuse survivor , though maybe too late to fend off divorce Either way, matters would turn out better for Katherine and Grace, and Lomax and Walker would probably not have got away with as much as they did I m sure it s no coincidence that Williams set it than a generation earlier than the time he was writing.Speaking to MeWhy did this book move me in such a direct and personal way I m not a man, not American, wasn t born at the turn of the 19th 20th centuries and have never been a farmer or a professor But I do love books, I do need escape sometimes, and I did spend much of my childhood on a family farm, though there was never any expectation that I would be a farmer The farm is part of it though in some ways, Stoner reminds me of my beloved grandfather, who died when I was 14 Although he had a happier life than Stoner, he had the same quiet but dogged resilience, and always tried to make the best of what life or wife threw at him.The other aspect that poured from the pages, especially second time round, was the emotional damage caused by bad parenting albeit sometimes with good intentions , caused or exacerbated by poor communication I was repeatedly reminded of Larkin s famous lines They fuck you up your mum and dad But they were fucked up in their turn see below Although I had a largely happy childhood, there were odd, complex and problematic aspects that have left their mark on the sort of adult and parent I am, and although I m the mother of a wonderful 20 year old, I m very conscious of things my husband and I could, and perhaps should, have done differently I think we re doing better than the Stoners, though Other ThemesSoil Stoner is a son of the soil and there are many allusions to its power to spread and bind, whether seeping through the floorboards or being ingrained in the skin or mind Soil chemistry is the only agricultural course mentioned by name, and Stoner enjoyed it until he discovered his greater love literature He is transplanted from the countryside to the university, where he puts down roots, and stays no matter what The university is the setting for almost all of the novel and arguably a character in its own right Early on, one of the characters muses whether it is a path to self fulfillment, an instrument for social good, or just an asylum The novel quietly demonstrates that it is all three Lust and learning that s really all there is says one character, but both of those need an outlet The insularity of most of the main characters and their unwillingness or inability to discuss or even show their feelings means they are lonely outsiders who can t relish life That aloneness exerts a high price that manifests itself in different ways the saddest outcome is for Grace, Stoner s daughter We need to reach out to each other, communicate, and seize the day At times, Stoner is like Don Quixote, with Gordon Finch as a brighter and influential sidekick than Sancho This friendship is the one enduring human relationship Finch repeatedly takes risks to help his friend, and yet it is a very understated friendship, that is not especially close An area to explore further on a reread Problematic AspectsThere are three troubling aspects, but that conflict is part of what makes the book compelling Two characters are self described cripples Times and vocabulary have changed, so that s not the issue What is harder is the fact that both characters are unpleasant and both use their disability to make false and malicious claims of prejudice to their own advantage What are the issues around consent for view spoiler sleep sex, given that the other party won t countenance it when fully conscious, but is, at some level, vaguely aware of it when nearly asleep Her enduring violation while he performed his love as quickly as he could, hating himself for his haste and regretting his passion sounds awful for both hide spoiler UN DIFETTO DI LUCE Shakespeare le parla attraverso tre secoli di storia, Mr Stoner Riesce a sentirlo Cosa le sta dicendo, Mr Stoner Cosa significa questo sonetto Stoner alz lo sguardo con lentezza, riluttante Significa , disse Significa , ripet , e non riusc a terminare la frase.William Stoner era all universit per studiare agraria e tornare in campagna ad aiutare suo padre nei campi e, magari, grazie allo studio, riuscire a far rendere meglio la terra avara Un sonetto di Shakespeare lo folgora, come san Paolo sulla via di Damasco Un autentica epifania Ed l inizio di una vita nuova basta con l agricoltura, la letteratura e la lingua diventano la passione che lo accompagna fino alla fine.Norman RockwellIn realt , di Stoner occorre dire qualcos altro, di ben diverso Ma questa parte, all inizio del libro, ho dovuto sottolinearla, perch io di fronte a questo libro sono rimasto letteralmente folgorato, senza parole, con tante lacrime, ma nessuna parola e solo una emersa dalla nebbia umida, significa , appunto, proprio questa Che per me vuol dire, bello, bellissimo, questo libro magnifico.Yann KebbiChi William Stoner Un uomo senza qualit , viene da pensare, un mediocre Eppure, pieno di qualit un uomo gentile, che conosce la Bellezza ha un tenero rapporto con sua figlia, conosce l a pi appassionato ma esiste una storia d a pi avvincente nella storia della letteratura non prova odio, n risentimento, n violenza nutre una passione sempiterna per la letteratura e la lingua inglese.Per accetta, non si ribella, non dice, no, questo no, non lo far , subisce, passivo, inerme, si rassegna, si adatta si sente fallito, e la sua vita brilla proprio come il perfetto fallimento di un esistenza che a parte qualche settimana, qualche breve mese, trascorsa in solitudine Stoner muore sostanzialmente solo e questo credo sia il suo pi vero fallimento ma esiste una morte pi trasparente di quella di Stoner nella storia della letteratura.Edward Hopper Eppure Stoner un uomo con principi, con idee, mantiene la sua passione per la letteratura, non infelice, tutto meno che una pietra come se non fosse davvero tangibile, come se fosse su un altra dimensione, straniero a casa sua.Una vita minima dopo l incipit viene da dire, no, basta, come si pu riempire trecento pagine sulla vita di quest uomo cos insulso Io non voglio essere lui, e per lui non ho interesse.Ma ci vuole pochissimo per sentire che siamo in presenza della verit umana, come succede nella grande letteratura, che si tratta di una fuga nella vita.Roberta Montaruli alias K.D In qualche strano modo, durante la lettura, ho sentito Flaubert vicino, pi di John Williams, che non conoscevo affatto E proprio come Flaubert con la sua Madame Bovary, mi viene da dire, Stoner sono io.Scrittura bisbigliata, lineare, semplice, chiara, limpida, trasparente come una superficie di vetro, si vede attraverso, si capisceUn piccolo miracolo, che illumina proprio come Stoner rimase illuminato dal sonetto 73 di Shakespeare Un difetto di luce, o meglio, A Flaw of Light, era il titolo originale di questo romanzo quando Williams lo consegn alla sua agente, Marie Rodell Fu la casa editrice Viking, dopo infiniti rifiuti, a pubblicarlo cambiando il titolo.97 likesEd ecco Stoner sar Casey Affleck a interpretarlo Joe Wright a dirigere il film, regista dal quale purtroppo non c da aspettarsi granch. For the hardworking men and women living in the open, windswept farm country of the American Midwest during the late 19th and early 20th century, day to day existence was frequently harsh an occasionally downright hostile, a stark, demanding life chiseling character as can be seen above in artist Grant Wood s American Gothic If you take a good look at this painting and then envision a son, an only child, working the fields alongside his father, you will have a clear image of the starting point of Stoner, John Williams classic novel of quiet perfection.The novel follows the life of William Stoner from his boyhood on a Missouri farm though his years as a faculty member of the English Department at the University of Missouri William Stoner is a good man, a man of integrity, a man, as we eventually find out through his relationship with a fellow faculty member, Katherine Driscoll, capable of profound intimacy and tenderness of heart William Stoner is also a lover of literature, an accomplished scholar and a dedicated teacher.But all is not well in the life of Professor Stoner, particularly in his home life As a beginning instructor right out of graduate school, he marries a woman barely twenty years of age from St Louis, the daughter of a banker, a young woman by the name of Edith Elaine Bostwick Turns out, young Edith is what we term nowadays as emotionally abused And right from the start of her marriage, Edith inflicts emotional abuse on her husband Stoner and eventually on their daughter Grace Personally, I found reading those parts of the novel involving Edith particularly wrenching bordering on painful.Indeed, as readers we live through the pain of Stoner dealing with Edith s wall of emotional frigidness and coldness, which includes being relegated as a husband in his late twenties to sleeping on the parlor coach at night Through all the years of isolation and alienation, including Edith s wedging a wall of separation between Stoner and Grace, there is one particularly poignant scene where we read, Once, while Edith was upstairs, William and his daughter passed each other in the living room Grace smiled shyly at him, and involuntarily he knelt on the floor and embraced her He felt her body stiffen, and he saw her face go bewildered and afraid He raised himself gently away from her, said something inconsequential, and retreated to his study For a child to become bewildered and afraid when a parent expresses such tenderness and affection speaks volumes to the level of emotional abuse at home.Rather than dwelling on the grimness of Stoner s family life, I will conclude with a one final observation Grace gives birth to a baby boy but after one brief visit did not return to the home of her parents with her son since, as Stoner realizes on his own and Grace tells him in so many words at one point during her whiskey drinking and, yes, a grim fact she has turned to alcohol , she got pregnant in the first place to escape from the prison of his mother s presence Well, my goodness as readers we have a good idea what it would mean for a sensitive man like William Stoner to be deprived of a relationship with his grandson.Turning to Stoner s professional life, there are serious cracks within the halls of academe He is a man of integrity and honesty and the political infighting within academic departments is famous for being vicious and nasty I wouldn t want to say any so as to spoil for a reader, but I can assure you Dr Stoner is on the receiving end of a large dose of viciousness.But through it all, our main character remains strong One memorable paragraph from the novel But William Stoner knew of the world in a way that few of his younger colleagues could understand Deep in him, beneath his memory, was the knowledge of hardship and hunger and endurance and pain Though he seldom thought of his early years on the Booneville farm, there was always near his consciousness the blood knowledge of his inheritance, given him by forefathers whose lives were obscure and hard and stoical and whose common ethic was to present to an oppressive world faces that were expressionless and hard and bleak Incidentally, when I was a 12 year old boy I joined me father, mother and sister as we took a trip in our car from the New Jersey shore across the American Midwestern heartland of farms to pay a visit to my grandmother On the way out and also in my grandmother s town, I heard a number of harrowing tales of farm life, especially for the children of farmers I reflected on those tales of physical hardship and unending toil when I wrote this surreal micro fiction a number of years ago DOWN ON THE FARMBefore he leaves the city they tell him how the country doctor drives a buggy made from the flesh and bones of his former patients Nothing goes to waste, is the way they put it when he finally arrives, we re all farmers around here He joins the doctor on his first visit to a farmhouse to attend a sick woman Instead of a thermometer, the doctor sticks his middle finger under the woman s tongue and says, I ve done this enough times to know when someone has a fever He looks over the doctor s shoulder out the farmhouse window Beyond a skeleton tied to a pole, he sees the farmer plowing his field using his younger son harnessed as a beast of burden Doesn t that take superhuman strength he asks the doctor.The doctor answers, His older son wasn t quite as strong, but still makes a fine scarecrow American author John William 1922 1994 I was going to start out this review of Stoner by feigning comic incredulity that the former conductor of the Boston Pops wrote a novel about potheads, but that is far, far too obvious and unsatisfying even for the likes of me Instead, I am going to confess that I read only half of it and, thereby, my ignorance has been properly disclaimed but that this aborted reading filled me with such unmitigated contempt for the author that I plan on mounting every soapbox if soapboxes haven t been technologically obviated by now from here to the Great Barrier Reef condemning this plodding, tiresome, amateurish book with an antagonistic passion that literature hasn t evoked in me since Cambridge s A Concise History of France wherein concision meant excising significant historical events in favor of agricultural data and a dimly Marxist perspective, but I digress as always.I shouldn t blame John Williams for my rising blood pressure because in fact YOU are to blame Yes, you Perhaps not individually, but in the general sense of Goodreads voters and reviewers, of which you are presumably a constituent As of this moment, Stoner has an average rating of 4.39 stars out of five on the basis of 531 Goodreader ratings This is a remarkable score, to be sure, but as with many averages, it is complete and utter bullshit obviously contaminated by the spurious opinions of the ardent fans of graceless, tedious prose You know who you are.Let s parse the data, shall we 459 people gave this turd four or five stars whilst only eleven people were courageous enough to call a spade a spade and, against the grain of general opinion, to award it only one or two stars I consider these eleven people heroes You and your ilk can eulogize the armed forces, the pigs, the schlubby, mustachioed rescue workers, with your tearful montages of wars, standoffs, and celebrity house fires, all assembled to the reactionary tunes of 3 Doors Down or Nickelback I prefer a subtler form of heroism you know, the lone voice who amid the Russophilic, ostentatiously intellectual acclaim for Bulgakov s The Master and Margarita dares to raise an eyebrow at this dry Goethe wannabeI therefore am a great hero because, fighting the insidious cabal of respectable opinion, I offer my head to the rabble in order to warn you what a lifeless stinkbomb Stoner is John Williams, I suspect, was an author who was better suited to actuarial work or fumigating Something prosaic His main problem is that he wants desperately to tell you everything He s adamant that you know this or that about his main character William Stoner s psychological make up, habits, and proclivities, but unfortunately he d rather put Mr Stoner behind a glass wall at the zoo and recite a bunch of vague adjectives and banal activities relevant to him In placing Stoner in the zoo and preparing a dry summation about him, he deprives Stoner of life, abbreviates him into a conceptThis is one of the worst kind of all writers, in my opinion He s committed to telling us and not to showing us He wants to control your attitude toward the characters by completely demystifying them Williams lays everything on the table, as if he s handing you a psychological abstract More than a few times, I wished that John Williams were not dead and were ready at hand, so I could give him a chocolate swirlie And then I pulled back in my condemnation for a moment I rethought my rage There are literally jillions of shitty writers on this planet, and a not insignificant number have had their works published Why should I blame John Williams for having a dream a grand ambition I wish for nothing less myself The intended repository for my rage and general ill will should be those who have applauded this crapfest the ones who ve elevated it to the status of minor classic of 20th century American literature The straw which broke the etc. came midway through the book when Stoner s wife, until then a mousy, retiring, sickly sort, adopts a new attitude after the death of her father She bobs her hair it s the 1920s and throws out her old clothes and buys some of those shapeless flapper type shifts, and consequentially she declares war on her husband The psychology might as well be written in neon She resents the dull and not very affluent academic life her husband provides The switch is so abrupt and ridiculous that all of the author s explanations and expositions do nothing to make it palatable, even in his stubbornly distanced and abstract telling I ve read better character development when we got in small groups to discuss our first stories in Creative Writing 101. I read Stoner after I saw that almost all my friends on GR had read it It s an impressive work which I finished months ago but hard a hard time figuring out what to say about it with thousands of reviews already out there Stoner is the life story of an unremarkable man and the consensus seems to be he did his best He came from a Missouri farm family and a poor background but manages to become an English professor at the university One theme is the loneliness and distant courtesy of many of the characters, which I think applies to Stoner himself This may be a trait of many academic folks who have some kind of social disability and turn to books as a substitute for social interaction He s awkward around women but finally marries Then we get I think, the most tragic lines in the book Within a month he knew that his marriage was a failure within a year he stopped hoping that it would improve His wife is constantly exhausted and at the edge of hysteria After they have a child a girl his wife seems so uninterested in the child that Stoner becomes mother and father His wife deliberately takes away any pleasures he has, such as converting his den to her art studio so that he can t spend time alone with his daughter while he works as she does her homework Let s put it this way his wife is nucking futs His life at the university offers limited respite to his hell at home He gets into what is initially a trivial dispute with his department chair The chair become his sworn enemy and punishes Stoner by taking away his graduate seminar courses To a large extent Stoner is an academic novel highlighting all the backbiting and pettiness we ve come to expect in these stories One faculty member says It s for us 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 Stoner lets himself become a little crazy in the classroom He loses the notes and becomes a good teacher, but this takes him several years He suspected that he was beginning, ten years late, to discover who he was and the figure he saw was both and less than he had once imagined it to be He felt himself at last beginning to be a teacher His younger colleagues recognize him as a dedicated teacher, a term they used half in envy and half in contempt He has contradictory feelings about his life On one hand He was forty two years old, and he could see nothing before him that he wished to enjoy and little behind him that he cared to remember And yet, and yet Except for Edith s absence from it, his life was nearly what he wanted it to be He found himself wondering if his life were worth the living if it had ever been It was a question, he suspected, that came to all men at one time or another Dispassionately, reasonably, he contemplated the failure that his life must appear to be He thinks What did you expect and that becomes his mantra as he lies on his death bed Is he heroic Or is he a loser It s easy for an outsider to look back at Stoner s life and tell him where he went wrong Just as we can imagine a good friend or a brother or a sister telling us you should have done this, Jim you should have done that It s obvious to them where we went wrong yet they can t see all the things we think and feel at the time they can t live our lives for us and despite all the advice and evidence that we should have done THIS or done THAT, instead we DON T do that or we DO something entirely different So as I look at Stoner s life, here s where I think he went wrong Easy for me to say I ll put this in a spoiler in the unlikely event that there is anyone still out there who has not yet read Stoner view spoiler Why didn t he leave his wife Sure, in those days fewer people divorced, but some did He stayed in a terrible marriage for the good of his daughter But as an adult, his daughter turned into an alcoholic with her husband s parents basically raising their grandkid Why didn t he challenge his wife even on some of the smaller things such as when she took away his den out of spite It was his and his daughter s only island of sanity in that house Why didn t Stoner stand up for his woman friend when the university forced the breakup of their improper relationship They truly loved each other Why did it take him 20 years to find a solution and fight back against his spiteful chairman who punished him by taking away his graduate courses hide spoiler Spoiler alert read at your own peril.UPDATE December 2010 I just submitted this to Better Book Titles I hope they accept it.Original Review October 2009 This is the most straight forward linear narrative type of novel I ve read in the past year So at first, I was not impressed But I soon realized that the novel is impressive precisely because it is able to be so damn linear, the writing style so damn plain, and the characters so damn dull and yet and yet it manages to make me continue reading on, driven by what I don t know There is a constant melancholy through the book, but also its points of light.So that was the first 100 pages or so Then it gets good I mean, really good But I don t know why Nothing that much changes, it is just events in the life of this guy But I start to really care about him, or really understand him or something Let me just put it out there this is a depressing novel It is a devastating novel It made me cry But it is not one where horrible thing after horrible thing happens to good people Many of the things that happen are yes, horrible, but also very normal they are like small dissappointments.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 Precisely because he is so restrained in his prose, that you never realize it when you re right on the edge of the cliff and you re like wait, how did I get here Also I don t mean to suggest that his prose is boring His prose is beautiful But straight forward And very functional It is in service to the subject matter And the fact that it is not flashy 95% of the time makes it all the devastating the other 5% of the time, when he floors it as in this passage Years later it was to occur to him that in that hour and a half on that December evening of their first extended time together, she told him about herself than she ever told him again And when it was over, he felt that they were strangers in a way that he had not thought they would be, and he knew that he was in love p53or in this passage It was a passion neither of the mind nor of the flesh rather, it was a force that comprehended them both, as if they were but the matter of love, its specific substance To a woman or to a poem, it said simply Look I am alive p 250I ve rambled long enough Let me just say a few things, because I m a bit delirious The characters They are complex and blameless That is part of the devastation You can t blame them for the decisions they make Each one, even the ones that make our protagonist s life hell, you can t blame them because the writer makes you understand slowly why they are the way they are What drives each character to drive each other mad I read on one of these goodreads reviews someone said It only troubles me that every single thing that Stoner thinks and says and does seems so incredibly right, or at least perfectly understandable, on first reading That s what I mean He didn t do anything wrong Everything he does is understandable He was just being himself the best way he knew how And so was every character in this book.