Stoner
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Stoner
John Williams
Literature
Aug 3, 2018
A summary of what happens in Stoner might well prompt even the most devoted book lover to consider a movie instead. A young farm boy named William Stoner goes off to an agricultural college where he develops a passion for poetry. He embarks on an undistinguished career as an assistant professor of English; his colleagues hold him in no particular esteem. He marries and has a daughter, but his home life becomes a long estrangement from his wife, and fatherhood is fraught with hesitations and mistakes. The hope he discovers in an affair with a colleague is scuttled by university politics. Stoner is “about work, the hard unyielding work of the farms; the work of living within a destructive marriage and bringing up a daughter with patient mutability in a poisoned household; the work of teaching literature to mostly unresponsive students,” writes Irish novelist John McGahern in an introduction to its 2006 reissue. On the face of it, this doesn’t sound inviting. The unexpected power of this unassuming tale is rooted in the way in which the author depicts the concentration of Stoner’s inner being despite the diffusion of his outer life. The cumulative effect of Williams’s unflinching attention to Stoner’s ordinary life is strangely exhilarating—breathtaking, really—in its recognition that our inward selves embrace so much more than our outward lives appear to hold.
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Apr 7
I'm glad I found this book. It is a gem.
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