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 solitude.
John 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.
- Paperback | 288 pages
- 128 x 203 x 16mm | 306g
- 28 Oct 2009
- The New York Review of Books, Inc
- NYRB Classics
- New York, United States
Other books in this series
04 Nov 2009
"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...The book is so beautifully paced and cadenced that it deserves the status of classic."--Colum McCann, Top 10 Novels, The Guardian "Stoner is undeniably a great book, but I can also understand why it isn't a sentimental favorite in its native land. You could almost describe it as an anti-Gatsby...Part of Stoner's greatness is that it sees life whole and as it is, without delusion yet without despair...The novel embodies the very virtues it exalts, the same virtues that probably relegate it, like its titular hero, to its perpetual place in the shade. But the book, like professor William Stoner, isn't out to win popularity contests. It endures, illumined from within."--Tim Kreider, The New Yorker
"It's simply a novel about a guy who goes to college and becomes a teacher. But it's one of the most fascinating things that you've ever come across."--Tom Hanks, Time "Stoner is written in the most plainspoken of styles...Its hero is an obscure academic who endures a series of personal and professional agonies. Yet the novel is utterly riveting, and for one simple reason: because the author, John Williams, treats his characters with such tender and ruthless honesty that we cannot help but love them."--Steve Almond, Tin House "The best book I read in 2007 was Stoner by John Williams. It's perhaps the best book I've read in years."--Stephen Elliott, The Believer "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."--The New York Times Book Review "Williams didn't write much compared with some novelists, but everything he did was exceedingly fine...it's a shame that he's not more often read today...But it's great that at least two of his novels [Stoner, Butcher's Crossing] have found their way back into print."--The Denver Post "A masterly portrait of a truly virtuous and dedicated man."--The New Yorker "Why isn't this book famous...Very few novels in English, or literary productions of any kind, have come anywhere near its level for human wisdom or as a work of art."--C. P. Snow "Serious, beautiful and affecting, what makes Stoner so impressive is the contained intensity the author and character share."--Irving Howe, The New Republic "A quiet but resonant achievement."--The Times Literary Supplement "Perhaps the greatest example of minimalism I've ever read...Stoner is a story of great hope for the writer who cares about her work."--Stephen Elliott "Stoner by John Williams, contains what is no doubt my favorite literary romance of all time. William Stoner is well into his 40s, and mired in an unhappy marriage, when he meets Katherine, another shy professor of literature. The affair that ensues is described with a beauty so fierce that it takes my breath away each time I read it. The chapters devoted to this romance are both terribly sexy and profoundly wise." --The Christian Science Monitor
"I'm not a big rereader, but I just reread Stoner by John Williams, and marveled once again at its remarkable combination of omniscience and intimacy." -- Jess Walter
About John Williams