Sunday Morning! “Stoner” by John Williams


Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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10 Responses

  1. I haven’t read the novel (or heard of it, til now). One question I have of you (and others who might have read it): is it plausible to interpret the novel as criticizing the main character, as portraying the main character as someone who makes an idol of intellectual pursuits to the detriment of his health or his obligations to loved ones?

    I ask because that’s my go to when I think about academia and the so-called “love of knowledge,” even if “knowledge,” per se, isn’t what we’re talking about. In addition to it being a “go to,” it’s also one of my priors because in my young adulthood, I made such an idol of academia and intellectualism. In other words, that’s the baggage I would bring to this novel, if I choose to read it.

    As for what I’m reading, I’m making my way through Herman Wouk’s War and Remembrance. I have already seen the made-for-TV miniseries, which came out in the 1980s, and the miniseries seems to track pretty closely to the book.Report

  2. Avatar Aaron David says:

    I haven’t read Stoner, but I would heartily recommend another novel by Williams, Butchers Crossing.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I’m pleased to have left the part of my life where people ask me “do you want fries with that?” when I tell them what I got my degree in and have entered the part where they ask “wait, why did you get a degree in *THAT*?” when the topic comes up.

    “I went crazy” is usually the shortest answer I can get away with.Report

  4. Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

    I read this book several years ago on the recommendation of a co-worker. It was one of the most melancholy works of fiction I’ve ever read. My take on the character is that he is, like most all of us, here in the present but will hardly, if at all, be remembered 100 years from now. It’s so rare to see a life come to naught in a novel.Report

  5. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I read the NYRB reprint a few years ago. The woman who wrote the forward or afterward had Williams as an MFA professor. The thing I remember he that he told her to read a lot of Edith Wharton. Now that I think about it, Stoner is a lot like a hardscrabble, midwestern Archer Newland from the Age of Innocence.

    In terms of degree, I have an undergrad and masters in theatre and then I abandoned arts for the law. When people find this out, they often say something like “I am sure your parents are glad you went into law.” And I don’t think the answer is yes necessarily. But I think there are people who are taught to do well in school so it leads to corporate careers and there are people who are told to do well to show academic mastery in a subject.Report

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