Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Stoner by John Edward Williams

William Stoner grew up and worked on a farm with his parents. He attained the opportunity to attend college, and he took it. This classic tale, told in a classic way, takes us through the life of a less than ordinary man.

This book takes us from the early part of the 20th century through his life. John Williams is masterful in the way he takes us through the years and how we look at an aging man. He doesn't leave out scandal but doesn't over-sensationalize.

William Stoner is the man we stand next to in the supermarket, he is the man we pass in the street. He is the man we never wonder about.

Wikipedia has summed this book up better than I could ever:

Stoner is a 1965 novel by the American writer John Williams.

The central character is an undistinguished English professor (Stoner) who pursues a largely uneventful career at a drab Midwestern university. Neither Stoner's wife, nor his colleagues, nor his students think much of him.

The achievement of the book is in the resonant telling of a small, ordinary life. In a 2007 review of the recently reissued work, Morris Dickstein wrote that Stoner is "a perfect novel, so well told and beautifully written, so deeply moving that it takes your breath away."

C.P Snow, writing in The Financial Times in 1973 asked "Why isn't this book famous?"

I had wondered why I never heard of this book, nor this author. Why isn't this book famous? I've read many a classics that had a lot less to offer than this, they were dry and uninteresting. Stoner isn't.

So how did I come to learn of this particular book? One word: Oprah. This was on her website. I can't recall if it was on a book club list or one of the best books of all time or something to that effect. I'm not one to run out and read every Oprah suggestion, but something about the synopsis struck me.

Rating: 4 out of 5

If you want to learn more about the author, you can read about John Edward Williams on Wikipedia.

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