John Williams: Stoner


The latest addition to my website is John WilliamsStoner. This novel got into the news again, when Ian McEwan rediscovered it, though it had never been out of print since it was first published and was certainly not unknown, at least in the United States. It is a first-class campus novel about a man, William Stoner, who comes from a poor farming background in Missouri, goes to college to study agriculture and discovers and falls in love with English literature. His great joy and great achievement is to transmit his love of English literature to students. However, not everything goes all right for him. He has a disastrous marriage and his wife essentially declares war on him, and tries, with some success, to alienate their daughter from him. The pain is not mitigated by a loving affair. Almost as importantly, he has a run-in with his departmental superior over the assessment of a graduate student and the superior holds this against him for the rest of his carer and makes life difficult for him. Despite this, he continues teaching English literature and gains great pleasure from sharing his love of it. It is the life of an ordinary man who, despite adversity, manages to keep going and doing what he loves. It is a superb book and Williams tells his story brilliantly.

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