John Williams wrote a masterpiece when he created Stoner

StonerStoner by John Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been wondering for a while why this book is so good. On the surface it appears to break the rules for writing compelling fiction: it tells much more than it shows, is not about a particularly (apparently) interesting character with an interesting career. Stoner, though undoubtedly an intellectual man, university professor, due to his limited EQ, and naivete, ends up not achieving anything spectacular. Yet, the narrative is rivetting. I found myself rooting for Stoner, getting angry and frustrated on his behalf, since he fails to do so for himself. Where he lets life wash over him, regardless, I the reader, felt angry, empassioned, frustrated and quite militant on his behalf.

Therein lies its strength, I think. Its ability to put the reader in a position of having to feel, having to be moved and enraged, because the protagonist does not.


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2 Commentsto John Williams wrote a masterpiece when he created Stoner

  1. Joan says:

    As a reader I felt sorry for Stoner, hoping he would at some points stand up for himself, take action, follow his heart, open his mouth, but he isn’t like that.
    Even though Stoner doesn’t seem very appealing and the situations he finds himself in are sad the book is wonderfully written and I couldn’t put it aside.
    Before ‘Stoner’ I was already blown away by ‘Butcher’s Crossing. Did you read that? If not: go get it!

    • geraldine says:

      Joan: You say you felt sorry for him… I think my feeling became one of frustration as well as sympathy. On the personal front, I cannot understand how he allowed his personal life to deteriorate, never choosing for himself but allowing himself to become a passive victim. Professionally, it brought home to me how those in positions of power abuse that power to protect their own ego.
      I have Butcher’s Crossing, but haven’t read it yet. I will, and let you know what I think of it, Joan.

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