'A masterly portrait of a truly virtuous and dedicated man' New Yorker
William Stoner enters the University of Missouri at nineteen to study agriculture. A seminar on English literature changes his life, and he never returns to work on his father's farm. Stoner becomes a teacher. He marries the wrong woman. His life is quiet, and after his death his colleagues remember him rarely.
Yet with truthfulness, compassion and intense power, this novel uncovers a story of universal value. Stoner tells of the conflicts, defeats and victories of the human race that pass unrecorded by history, and reclaims the significance of an individual life. A reading experience like no other, itself a paean to the power of literature, it is a novel to be savoured.
Review by John Purcell:
I completely missed the talk about Stoner by John Williams. Originally published in 1965 to critical praise and few sales it sank like a stone until 2003 when it was rediscovered and celebrated as an American classic.
I don't know what I was doing at the time. Probably sitting in my second-hand bookshop reading and taking no notice of the world. Blissful memories.
Without me noticing, Stoner rose from the dead, was praised by all, and in the great tradition of bookselling, after a decent passage of time, was escorted back to the grave again.
That's where I found it.
As the preface proudly declares, Stoner is the story of an unexceptional man who lives an unexceptional life - a farmer's son who becomes a lecturer at the state university. A footnote, if he is lucky. But then author John Williams leans in to take a closer look.
No novel in recent memory has elicited so many emotions from me. Reading Stoner, I was in turn desperately sad, impotently angry, utterly despondent and then, strangely hopeful and elated. I closed the book feeling grateful and invigorated.
I was imagining myself a foot soldier in a battle against the unthinking horde with Stoner standing beside me whispering, 'Stand your ground and we'll all get through this.'
Stoner is a wonderful surprise. I am very happy I stumbled across it. I will be re-reading it very soon.
Just in case, like me, you missed the second coming of Stoner, I thought I would just draw attention to the book again. I hope you don't mind.
About the Author
John Williams was born on August 29, 1922 in Clarksville, Texas. He served in the United States Army Air Force from 1942 to 1945 in China, Burma and India. The Swallow Press published his first novel, Nothing But the Night, in 1948, as well as his first book of poems, The Broken Landscape, in 1949. Macmillan published Williams' second novel, Butcher's Crossing, in 1960. After recieving his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Denver, and his Ph.D from the University of Missouri, Williams returned in 1954 to the University of Denver where he taught literature and the craft of writing for thirty years. In 1963 Williams received a fellowship to study at Oxford University where where he received a Rockefeller grant enabling him to travel and research in Italy for his last novel, Augustus, published in 1972. John Williams died in Arkansas on March 4, 1994.
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Comments about Stoner:
One of the best books I have read. A literary gem.
Comments about Stoner:
This was a sad and moving story that I could not put down. I highly recommend this book. You will not be disappointed.
"I was stunned by it... It's beautifully written in simple but brilliant prose, a novel of an ordinary life, an examination of a quiet tragedy, the work of a great but little-known writer" -- Ruth Rendell Guardian "A masterpiece of sad lucidity, as moving as it is psychologically compelling" -- Peter Kemp Sunday Times "It is a remarkably affecting story, told in quiet, unshowy prose" -- Stefan Collini Times Literary Supplement "In recent times I have owed more to word of mouth than to the statements of reviewers, when it comes to finding my way to rewarding work published or reissued... This is also true, or truer still, of Stoner" -- Karl Miller Times Literary Supplement "My favourite book of the year...a masterpiece-beautifully written with a rare tenderness and wisdom that will make you want to read it again" -- Jonathan Pugh Daily Mail "With prose of breathtaking clarity, and a narrative that flows along seamlessly, Williams subverts the American dream via an underachieving and rather unlucky university lecturer... Anyone who loves literature will surely love this" -- Judy Moir Herald "The other book that cheered me up this year was Stoner by John Williams...re-emerging this year - rather triumphantly (and permanently this time, I think)" -- Robin Robertson Glasgow Sunday Herald "A compassionate depiction of Everyman that celebrates the transformative power of literature" -- Melonie Clarke The Lady "A beautiful, sad, utterly convincing account of an entire life... I'm amazed a novel this good escaped general attention for so long" -- Ian McEwan "A terrific novel of echoing sadness" -- Julian Barnes "Stoner is a brilliant, beautiful, inexorably sad, wise, and elegant novel" -- Nick Hornby The Believer "I have read few novels as deep and as clear as John Williams' Stoner. It deserves to be called a quiet classic of American literature" -- Chad Harbach "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. It is universally adored by writers and readers alike. The book is so beautifully paced and cadenced that it deserves the status of classic" -- Colum McCann Guardian "A beautiful and moving novel, as sweeping, intimate and mysterious as life itself" -- Geoff Dyer "One of the great unheralded 20th century American novels...Almost perfect" -- Bret Easton Ellis "It's simply a novel about a guy who goes to college and becomes a teacher. But its one of the most fascinating things that you've ever come across" -- Tom Hanks Time "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...few stories this sad could be so secretly triumphant, or so exhilarating. Williams brings to Stoner's fate a quality of attention, a rare empathy, that shows us why this unassuming life was worth living." New York Times
Number Of Pages: 320
Published: 3rd September 2012
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.9 x 2.0
Weight (kg): 0.23
Edition Number: 1