‘Stoner’ by John Williams

September 23, 2014 at 5:29 am 2 comments

A book equally quiet and serious as its own protagonist, Stoner by John Williams is, like The Secret History, another perfectly autumnal read. Indeed, despite the story spanning decades—an entire man’s life, in fact—there is something distinctly autumnal about the book’s tone and outlook even apart from its academic setting.

Stoner relates, in an emotionless and detached manner, the life of William Stoner, a man raised by farmers and ensorcelled by academia. As his life progresses, one gets a creeping sense of futility—that it hardly matters what choices Stoner makes as all of them seem to turn sour until his inevitable death. Stoner himself is fairly philosophical about these developments, approaching a love affair, a malevolent colleague, and everything in between with equanimity.

As a reader, however, this consistent souring can be a bit much and may leave you with a despairing taste in your mouth. Stoner is an undeniably well-written, even beautiful, novel and one which speaks to far more than its narrow scope of one man’s life. But is it a must-read? Maybe for some, but certainly not for all.


Entry filed under: Classics. Tags: , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. bookcrumble  |  September 23, 2014 at 7:00 am

    Definitely next on my to read list!

  • 2. Lisa Hill  |  September 24, 2014 at 2:36 am

    Well, Corey, your comment has made me think about my own use of the term ‘must-read’…
    There are people who think the latest Jodi Picoult is a must-read, I suppose.
    But for the kind of reader I hang out with online (!), Stoner is indeed a must-read. I think it’s one of the best American books I’ve read in a long, long time.
    My review is at http://anzlitlovers.com/2014/07/12/stoner-by-john-williams/


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