Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stoner by John Williams

"In his extreme youth Stoner had thought of love as an absolute state of being to which, if one were lucky, one might find access; in his maturity he had decided it was the heaven of a false religion, toward which one ought to gaze with with an amused disbelief, a gently familiar contempt, and an embarrassed nostalgia. Now in his middle age he began to know that it was neither a state of grace or an illusion; he saw it as a human act of becoming, a condition that was invented and modified moment by moment and day by day, by the will and the intelligence and the heart."  (page 195)
Unfortunately, this has become a habit - the more I like a book, the more I procrastinate writing a blog post. The task of finding the right words to convey what I loved about the book seems overwhelming. Let me say that Stoner by John Williams is undoubtedly my favorite book of 2013. It has also earned a spot on my list of all-time favorites.

The novel, first published in 1965 and purchased after reading Matt's glowing review, has been on my shelf for nearly two years, but I should never have waited that long to read it. With a thoughtful, introspective tone, this book begs to be read slowly, savoring every word. My heart literally ached with sympathy for the main character. If a quiet character study in an academic setting and the most beautiful writing imaginable appeals to you, Stoner  is not to be missed.

My rating:

39 comments:

  1. I was surprised by how much I liked this one, too. It's such an understated book, that it's easy to miss how engrossed you are until you surface close to 100 pages later. I'm glad to see it finally getting the attention it deserves.

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    1. Shannon - I just saw today that Waterstones named Stoner their book of the year!
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookprizes/10490306/Stoner-wins-Waterstones-Book-of-the-Year-2013.html

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  2. It is hard to write about books you love but the fact that it's your best book of the year says a lot to me.

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    1. Kathy - I can't imagine reading anything in the next few weeks that will be better than Stoner!

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  3. I love the quote and I love the cover, and your review makes it irresistible. Which is all good because I "need" to get myself a present on amazon….

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    1. Jill - This would be a great present! BTW, I just downloaded Tell the Wolves I'm Home from the library… love it already.

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  4. This one is popping up everywhere, and I'm absolutely fascinated!

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    1. Andi - It's such a gorgeous, understated book… I loved it!

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  5. "...it was the heaven of a false religion..." That quote is pretty powerful.

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    1. Vasilly - And that's only one of the quotes I marked. I wish I'd taken a picture of all the post-it flags hanging out of the book!

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  6. I love this book so much, its easily one of my favourites (and not dissimilar to Wallace Stegner, in my opinion). I just think he is an astounding writer - how can a story that is on the surface so simple, be so completely fascinating and utterly beautiful? Here in the UK they have just republished another of his books - Butcher's Crossing and I can't wait to read that one too!

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    1. Charlottereadsclassics - Well that explains it! Wallace Stegner is another favorite and Crossing to Safety is probably my all-time favorite novel. I have to read Butcher's Crossing now.

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  7. Did you see The Telegraph article?

    There are more Stoners to be found on the book shelves: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10491542/There-are-more-Stoners-to-be-found-on-the-book-shelves.html

    I need to get a hold of a copy!

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    1. O - Thank you for the link, I have not seen that article! You must get a copy of Stoner.

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  8. I had never heard of this book until it began appearing on so many blogs. ... but since you love it this much, I can't possibly not read it!

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    1. Audrey - Stoner has certainly enjoyed a rediscovery this year. I think you'd love the writing, too!

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  9. WOW - up the list this goes. I do own it and if it is tops on this years list for you, I must read it.

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    1. Diane - It's such a beautiful book… and the writing is amazing. Can't wait to hear what you think.

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  10. This is on my list of 'should reads' but I'm obviously going to have to bump it up to 'must read' - I haven't heard a bad word about it anywhere!

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    1. Vicki - Stoner is definitely a must read!

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  11. It's funny but it is harder to write about the books you love than the ones you don't. Not sure this one is for me but I'm glad you loved it so much. I love when books leave me feeling like that.

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    1. Darlene - Stoner won't be for everyone, but I do love a well-written character study.

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  12. This title is new to me and to see it first with such a glowing review (I think they're the hardest to write too) means I need to check it out :)

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    1. Stacy - Stoner seems to be enjoying a surge of renewed interest lately.

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  13. I don't have this book, yet, but it's been on my tbr list for, probably, more than 2 years. Your posts, especially this one, are rekindling my itch to read Stoner. It's so difficult to find the time to read even the books I really, really want to read. I'm glad you enjoyed Stoner so much, Joann and thank you for sharing your enjoyment! I have difficulty writing reviews for my favorite books.. I find it hard to pick the right words to explain how good a book is...I feel like I'm always saying the same thing and it's not good enough, anyway!

    I'm interested in your thoughts on Tell the Wolves I'm Home, too. Happy reading!

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    1. Amy - I know what you mean about finding the time to read all the books we'd like… wish we could have just a couple of extra hours each day! Almost half way through Tell The Wolves I'm Home and am surprised by how much I like it. Main character is a teen, but this doesn't really seem like a YA book.

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  14. You know I love this book. I particularly love the scene in the book where Stoner fairly and firmly confronts a student and a colleague during oral exams. It got me so wound up that my heart was literally racing. And the fact that Stoner wins the battle but ultimately looses the war makes it even more heart wrenching.

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    1. Thomas - I know this is one of your favorites, too! Have you read Butcher's Crossing? I almost hate to read his other books… can they possibly be as good as Stoner?

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  15. I enjoyed your review. Just from the excerpt I had an idea this would be a great book. I've added it to my to read list.

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    1. Pat - I could have chosen any number of passages for this post… you should have seen all the post-it flags in my book ;-)

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  16. This sounds wonderful. I can't believe I've never heard of this book!

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    1. Les - Stoner really seems to be one of those hidden gems. I've had good luck with New York Review Books Classics before, but this was really extraordinary.

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  17. I was all set to read this until I saw an interesting discussion on Twitter between Elaine Showalter (one of my heroes) and several other authors/critics about the misogyny in the novel and decided to skip it. Did you feel it was misogynistic at all?

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    1. Anbolyn - I'll have to see if I can find that discussion. The female characters in the book are not especially admirable and at least one is downright despicable, but labeling it misogynistic may be a little extreme. It would be a shame to miss out on such beautiful writing for that reason. You've got me wondering about female characters in his other books...

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  18. I love Wallace Stegner and can't wait to read Stoner. I do the same thing (procrastinating) blogging about books I love. I think it's because we want to do them justice.

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    1. Amy - Wallace Stegner is one of my favorites, too.If you love Crossing to Safety, you'll love Stoner! That's definitely my reason for the procrastination...

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  19. I have had this on my tbr for too long. Moving it into high priority for 2014.

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    1. Care - Yay! Can't wait to hear what you think.

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  20. You have me so so curious about this one! I can't believe I've never heard of it before, especially given it was published in 1965. I'll be looking for it next time I go to Half Price Books.

    And I'm the same. Have such a hard time writing about the books I loved...even though those are the ones I want to talk about the most!

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