I received an advance review copy of this title from New York Review of Books.
For those of you that are not new to my blog, you might have noticed that this book has a place in my “favorites” section. In this book we are introduced to William Stoner who is born at the turn of the century into a very poor farm family in rural Missouri. Stoner would have also become a farmer like his father and when he is given a scholarship to the state university, he fully intends to study agriculture. But through the influence of a tough but inspiring English professor, Stoner changes his major to English and he himself becomes a University English professor.
One of the aspects that I enjoyed most about the book is Stoner’s contemplation about what it means to be a good teacher. He also doesn’t always play the university politics game and his career suffers for it. He is forced to teach Freshman English courses over and over again and he does so in a stoic manner without protest. Whether he is in a graduate seminar class or a beginning Freshman English class he always gives his best teaching to his students.
Stoner meets a charming young woman at the home of his professor and he immediately decides that he wants to marry her. He courts Edith for about two weeks and they have a modest wedding ceremony at her parent’s house. But Edith soon reveals her mental instability and Stoner realizes very quickly that his marriage is a miserable failure. But Stoner never even contemplates leaving Edith and instead he endures a miserable life at home with a wife who is crazy and unpredictable. I was glad to see that at one point in the book, though, he does find real love and intimacy, which I think is what he craves all along.
The prose in this book is exceptionally elegant. This is one of those books that my thoughts keep wandering to over and over. It makes one contemplate so many different ideas: career, family, love, marriage, and even death. The 50th anniversary edition issued by the New York Review of Boks is a hardcover book with an introduction by John McGahern. Even if you have already read Stoner on the Kindle or in the original paperback, this beautiful hardcover edition is very special and worth having on one’s bookshelf.
About The Author:
The critic Morris Dickstein has noted that, while Butcher’s Crossing, Stoner, and Augustus are “strikingly different in subject,” they “show a similar narrative arc: a young man’s initiation, vicious male rivalries, subtler tensions between men and women, fathers and daughters, and finally a bleak sense of disappointment, even futility.” Dickstein called Stoner, in particular, “something rarer than a great novel — it is a perfect novel, so well told and beautifully written, so deeply moving, it takes your breath away.”
After retiring from the University of Denver in 1986, Williams moved with his wife, Nancy, to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he resided until he died of respiratory failure on March 3, 1994. A fifth novel, The Sleep of Reason, was left unfinished at the time of his death