26 Jun


Set aside everything you think you know about a great writer, now wrap your mind around John Edward Williams (1922-1994) and the novel he wrote about (William) Stoner. Originally published in 1965 by Viking press with a reissue in 2006 by New York Review Books Classic, one is stymied by the fact that this book and author are virtually unknown except to a select faction of followers.

John McGahern, who wrote the Introduction to this academic novel, nearly caused me to not read this book, as he unveils the entire story in just a few pages. Oh, what a travesty it would have been to allow McGahern to spoil this read. Notwithstanding this blunder, I forged onward into the world of William Stoner. I was enthralled, mesmerized and, at the same time, aghast that such a writer could have remained in the shadows as he did. As Morris Dickstein wrote in a 2007 Review: “John Williams’ “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.”

This is the story of an ordinary man who lives an otherwise dismal life in the throes of a scholar’s existence. Setting aside the austerity of Stoner’s life, the telling is not dark nor is it boring, as you are now thinking it is. The telling is perfection.

Thomas Eakins’ painting, on the front cover, perfectly fits the somber mood of this novel. Wow.


One Response to “STONER”

  1. Lady Fancifull May 15, 2015 at 8:59 p05 #

    A wonderful book, and a carefully inviting review which doesn’t give anything away which the reader needs to discover themselves – I too hate those scholarly introductions which spoil the journey. I wish they were not introductions but postscripts, when they would be useful and interesting

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