REVIEW | Stoner

John Williams

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Stoner - John Williams.jpg

Note: this isn’t a book about stoners.

I hadn’t finished a new book in two months. Then, I read Stoner in its entirety in a single sitting.

It’s a little hard for me to talk about this novel. From the outlook, it’s just a story about an ordinary guy living an ordinary life, but there’s so much more to it that’s hard to put into words.

“Like all lovers, they spoke much of themselves, as if they might thereby understand the world which made them possible.”

Like so many of my other favourite novels, Stoner is a character study. The style reminded me a lot of The Heart’s Invisible Furies – another novel that completely destroyed me – where the writing is quite plain, and the story isn’t quite world shattering, but the novel as a whole is so incredibly addictive in its stoicism.

The plot follows Stoner as his life goes on, from humble and simple beginnings on his parents’ farm to becoming a professor of English literature at the local university. He marries a pretty girl, has a few good friends, gets immersed in his work and lives a long life. I realise that when I put the story like that, it’s hard to think that the novel is interesting at all, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

“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 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 nor 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.”

Stoner will be high up on my, ‘books you’ll just have to trust me with’ list. It is often the strongest emotions that are the most difficult to put into words and I’ve really hit that point with this one.

I was looking through reviews for this book because I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say and found the below review from Better Than Food. This channel is excellent and the review was hilarious to me because I honestly feel exactly the same!

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