Stoner (novel)

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First edition
Author John Williams
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Viking Press
Publication date
Pages 288
ISBN 1-59017-199-3
OCLC 61253892
813/.54 22
LC Class PS3545.I5286 S7 2003

Stoner is a 1965 novel by the American writer John Williams. It was reissued in 2003 by New York Review Books Classics with an introduction by John McGahern.[1]

The central character, William Stoner, begins as a hardscrabble farm boy in Missouri whose parents send him to college to major in agriculture, but he is seduced one afternoon by Shakespeare's Sonnet 73 and changes his major to literature. This change is the first decision he has made based upon his own desires, which had previously been buried under the physical fatigue of endless farm chores. Stoner's career begins just before World War I, which he teaches through with constant application to his responsibilities which makes him popular advising English majors, until he is almost destroyed during the depression by English Department politics and demoted to teaching freshman and sophomore English survey courses. Although he appears to be an undistinguished English professor, he is fighting for his very existence, every day, much as he did back on the farm. Although his career may seem largely uneventful at a drab Midwestern university, underneath his emotions are in constant flux, dealing with his unstable wife Edith and her attempts to isolate him from the affections of their only child, Grace. He falls in love with a younger instructor at the university, Katherine Driscoll, who returns his feelings, and also has to deal with the effects of a controversial affair in a much more repressive time.

In a 2007 review of the recently reissued work, Morris Dickstein wrote that Stoner is "a perfect novel, so well told and beautifully written, so deeply moving that it takes your breath away."[2] A 2013 BBC article which reported it was named Waterstones Book of the Year also said that Tom Hanks called it "one of the most fascinating things that you've ever come across" and noted that The New Yorker had called it "the greatest American novel you've never heard of" earlier in the year, and said that a translation by French writer Anna Gavalda sparked off a new wave of interest.[3]

Steve Almond praised Stoner in The New York Times Magazine, writing, "I had never encountered a work so ruthless in its devotion to human truths and so tender in its execution."[4]


  1. ^ John Williams, Stoner, New York Review Books, New York, 2003.
  2. ^ "The Inner Lives of Men," by Morris Dickstein, New York Times, June 17, 2007 [1]
  3. ^ "Stoner by John Williams awarded Waterstones book prize". BBC. 3 December 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "You Should Seriously Read ‘Stoner’ Right Now", Steve Almond, The New York Times Magazine, May 9, 2014.

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