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READ KINDLE õ Stoner ó William Stoner Is Born At The End Of The Nineteenth Century Into A Dirt Poor Missouri Farming Family Sent To The State University To Study Agronomy, He Instead Falls In Love With English Literature And Embraces A Scholar S Life, So Different From The Hardscrabble Existence He Has Known And Yet As The Years Pass, Stoner Encounters A Succession Of Disappointments Marriage Into A Proper Family Estranges Him From His Parents His Career Is Stymied His Wife And Daughter Turn Coldly Away From Him A Transforming Experience Of New Love Ends Under Threat Of Scandal Driven Ever Deeper Within Himself, Stoner Rediscovers The Stoic Silence Of His Forebears And Confronts An Essential SolitudeJohn Williams S Luminous And Deeply Moving Novel Is A Work Of Quiet Perfection William Stoner Emerges From It Not Only As An Archetypal American, But As An Unlikely Existential Hero, Standing, Like A Figure In A Painting By Edward Hopper, In Stark Relief Against An Unforgiving World Those who can, do Those who can t, teach.What to do when everything goes wrong Work, marriage, parenthood, eventually health Plenty of benevolent advices and platitudes will whizz around your ears, to help you to bounce back Remember, it is all in your mind Happiness is the result of your approach to life, not of what happens to you Revolt, anger, complaining or denial won t change anything Focus on what is instead of on what should be Accept, accept, accept Take one step at time, keep moving, keep working to what you want in life.In our times of voluntarist belief in shaping our own destiny, only fools refuse or refrain to act or at least to try to take control of their own life.But perhaps the only sensible thing to do is keep breathing Minimal action, minimal reaction Just embrace plain and simple old fashioned and untimely Stoicism Like Stoner Wisdom lies in tuning our lives to the divine order of the universe and to want what actually is the case As emotions have an external source, as we are being moved, touched, affected, impassioned, be the Master of Yourself and control your emotions Do not strive for pleasure Be un touched Only a fool tries to impose his own selfish desires upon reality and is the plaything of his emotions and desires The consolations of philosophy applied to ordinary life Amongst the teachers I know, there is a bittersweet running joke, when talking about the essence of their profession Why does someone chooses to become a teacher And, bursting with self mockery laughter, they sing in unison Those who can, do Those who can t, teach Stoner s friend Dave Masters, could probably agree with it, when he is partly ironically speaking about the true nature of universitiesIt is an asylum or what do they call them now a rest home, for the infirm, the aged, the discontent, and the otherwise incompetent This novel strongly reminisced academic life, its seclusion and petty machinations Not having Stoner s gift of endurance, I fled, abandoning the dream of a life of learning and science after 6 years of struggle, as university was not the refuge and source of wisdom this naive working class daughter hoped for, but a ruthless, almost egotistic habitat crushing me a place where teaching didn t really matter As Ian trenchantly points out, if we empathize with Stoner s dire life, couldn t it be because of our own wounds and experiences too Imagine yourself living together with Stoner However wise and admirable his stoicism, there is also a solipsistic aspect to it According to his creator, Stoner is altogether a happy manHe had a very good life He had a better life than most people do, certainly He was doing what he wanted to do, he had some feeling for what he was doing, he had some sense of the importance of the job he was doingBut what about the effect of his stoic attitudes on the lives of the others in his life His parents, wife, daughter, lover Does he really care I disliked Williams s portrayal of Edith, Stoner s vicious battle axe of a wife I guess I am not conversant enough with the perception of American women in that part of history, but her one dimensional depiction hardly exceeds the caricature image of the neurotic frigid female, like the Madge in Frank Zappa s Harry you re a beast You paint your head Your mind is dead You don t even know what I just said THAT S YOU AMERICAN WOMANHOOD You re phony on top You re phony underneath You lay in bed grit your teeth MADGE, I WANT YOUR BODY HARRY, GET BACK MADGE, IT S NOT MERELY PHYSICAL HARRY, YOU RE A BEAST.Coming no further than these personal musings, I feel not able to do justice to this poignant novel, hitting a little too close to home, for than one reason Yes, Stoner is as unforgettable a character as many reviews point out Yes, in many respects, I have known a Stoner We were married for 16 years He was, like Stoner, the most stoic person I ever met He illustrated his philosophy lectures with a cartoon from D Palmer s Looking at Philosophy The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter afterwards showing it to our children to teach them equanimity when things didn t work out as they would like they did As I am not that stoic like he was, because of its ending, I didn t have the heart to pass the book to him. 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 William Stoner grew up on a farm, a hardscrabble farm too small to provide than just subsistence living They were an undersized family for that time period, just his father and mother and himself It took all of them to keep up with the backbreaking work of a farm in the early 20th century His father, in his own way, a visionary man could see that farming was on the cusp of great changes He sent Stoner to the University of Missouri to find out what the future was going to be for agriculture Stoner wasn t an inspired student He still had to work on a relative s farm to pay for his tuition and found the work he did the less help he got from his relatives He still had to go back to the family farm and help his father whenever he had spare time He was almost too busy to worry too much about schoolThe first pivotal moment for Stoner is when he is sitting in an English class taught by his future mentor The professor puts him on the spot asking him to explain a Shakespeare Sonnet Stoner was dumbfounded not only with embarrassment, but by the language of the English bard He switched majors from the department of agriculture to the department of English literature I grew up on a farm about 80 years after Stoner, as anticipated by Stoner s father, production agriculture took great leaps forward replacing a lot of backbreaking labor with machines Farmers were able to increase their land holdings as tractors and thrashers allowed them to maximize daylight hours I stacked a lot of hay, feed cattle in subzero weather, pulled calves you ve never been properly slimed until you ve spent time up to your elbow in a cow s uterus , fixed fence, rode tractors listening to Royals baseball games to keep from dozing off, drove trucks full of grain, and every minute I wasn t doing something for the farm or playing sports I was reading books My parents don t know how it happened It must have been an aberrant gene Nobody I knew read books, except for the good book, which most of the time I couldn t tell they d grasped many of the concepts of that book either The 1980s farm crises hit just as I was coming of age Land values had jumped up and many farmers had expanded their operations Then land values plummeted and bankers started realizing that the loans they had made to these farmers were no longer secured with enough equity They started calling their customer s notes due Thousands of farmers were forced to sell out My Dad survived by the skin of his teeth He decided there was no future in farming and told me I was going to college My younger brother was a better fit for farming anyway My Dad knew that I wasn t really cut out to be a farmer my nose in a book all the time might have been the tip off A crises for many created an opportunity for me Like Stoner I majored in English Literature Stoner becomes a teacher He decides not to go to war with his friends and suffers from the stigma of swimming against the tide This is a theme for Stoner, going his own way, ignoring the odd looks, and the snide remarks He meets a demure young woman named Edith and pursues her doggedly believing that his kindness would be recognized and appreciated by someone so fragile The description of the consummation of the marriage is one of the grimmest most agonizing that I have ever readEdith was in bed with the covers pulled to her chin, her face turned upward, her eyes closed, a thin frown creasing her forehead Silently, as if she were asleep, Stoner undressed and got into bed beside her For several moments he lay with his desire, which had become an impersonal thing, belonging to himself alone He spoke to Edith, as if to find a haven for what he felt she did not answer he put his hand upon her and felt beneath the thin cloth of her nightgown the flesh he had longed for He moved his hand upon her she did not stir her frown deepened Again he spoke, saying her name to silence then he moved his body upon her, gentle in his clumsiness When he touched the softness of her thighs she turned her head sharply away and lifted her arm to cover her eyes She made no sound For a man so sensual and in need of romantic love he unfortunately married the wrong woman He hoped for a partner, but found himself roped to a woman that embraced invalidism and waged nasty little wars against him that by his nature made him incapable of defending himself He finds solace in books and spends and of his time at the University in Jesse Hall reading Jesse Hall at the University of MissouriStoner makes enemies of some of his coworkers He is so unsuited for office politics that it proves to be a detriment to him Though I was so proud of him towards the end of the book when he cleverly outflanks a department chair intent on driving him from the profession He meets a woman, a very special woman as if molded by the gods to be the perfect mate for him Her name is Katherine Driscoll and the gymnastics involved with the misinterpretations, missteps and miscues of their burgeoning relationship left me emotionally drained There are movies sometimes or television shows where the audience is on the edge of their seat waiting for the moment when the characters finally realize they are meant to be together and kiss for the first time Well it wasn t a kiss that became that epic moment for William and KatherineHe found himself trembling as awkwardly as a boy he went around the coffee table and sat beside her Tentatively, clumsily, their hands went out to each other they clasped each other in an awkward, strained embrace and for a long time they sat together without moving, as if any movement might let escape from them the strange and terrible thing that they held between them in a single grasp Stoner s enemies leap at an opportunity to destroy him Even the liberal community of a university has it s limits Stoner for the first time in his life is becoming the person he always wanted to be, but the heady days of joy are under assault, and he is trapped by his own sense of honor He suffers for love just as he is starting to understand itIn this forty third year William Stoner learned what others much younger, had learned before him that the person one loves at first is not the person one loves at last, and that love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another This is such a deceptively simple novel The sparse, powerful prose give this book so much depth Stoner gets under your skin He is so stoic in the face of continued and unremitting harassment from the people around him that I found myself sharing the pain with him The author John Williams grew up on a small farm in Texas and had a similar escape to the University as Stoner and I He ended up developing the writing program for the University of Denver In the introduction by John McGahern he relates something that Mr Williams said that resonates with me as well Williams complains about the changes in the teaching of literature and the attitude to the text as if a novel or poem is something to be studied and understood rather than experiencedJohn WilliamsI m a reader that likes to be told a story I don t want to break books down to their mathematical or scientific structures I want the mysticism, the emotion of a journey that expands my understanding of humanity William Stoner is as real to me as the mailman that delivers my mail or the publisher that signs my checks If I ever run into him I will shake his large, farm hardened hand and ask him if he has a little bit of time to talk to me about a certain sonnet written by a man by the name of Shakespeare. I read Stoner after I saw that almost all my friends on GR had read it It s an impressive work which I finished months ago but hard a hard time figuring out what to say about it with thousands of reviews already out there Stoner is the life story of an unremarkable man and the consensus seems to be he did his best He came from a Missouri farm family and a poor background but manages to become an English professor at the university One theme is the loneliness and distant courtesy of many of the characters, which I think applies to Stoner himself This may be a trait of many academic folks who have some kind of social disability and turn to books as a substitute for social interaction He s awkward around women but finally marries Then we get I think, the most tragic lines in the book Within a month he knew that his marriage was a failure within a year he stopped hoping that it would improve His wife is constantly exhausted and at the edge of hysteria After they have a child a girl his wife seems so uninterested in the child that Stoner becomes mother and father His wife deliberately takes away any pleasures he has, such as converting his den to her art studio so that he can t spend time alone with his daughter while he works as she does her homework Let s put it this way his wife is nucking futs His life at the university offers limited respite to his hell at home He gets into what is initially a trivial dispute with his department chair The chair become his sworn enemy and punishes Stoner by taking away his graduate seminar courses To a large extent Stoner is an academic novel highlighting all the backbiting and pettiness we ve come to expect in these stories One faculty member says It s for us that the University exists, for the dispossessed of the world not for the students, not for the selfless pursuit of knowledge, not for any of the reasons that you hear Stoner lets himself become a little crazy in the classroom He loses the notes and becomes a good teacher, but this takes him several years He suspected that he was beginning, ten years late, to discover who he was and the figure he saw was both and less than he had once imagined it to be He felt himself at last beginning to be a teacher His younger colleagues recognize him as a dedicated teacher, a term they used half in envy and half in contempt He has contradictory feelings about his life On one hand He was forty two years old, and he could see nothing before him that he wished to enjoy and little behind him that he cared to remember And yet, and yet Except for Edith s absence from it, his life was nearly what he wanted it to be He found himself wondering if his life were worth the living if it had ever been It was a question, he suspected, that came to all men at one time or another Dispassionately, reasonably, he contemplated the failure that his life must appear to be He thinks What did you expect and that becomes his mantra as he lies on his death bed Is he heroic Or is he a loser It s easy for an outsider to look back at Stoner s life and tell him where he went wrong Just as we can imagine a good friend or a brother or a sister telling us you should have done this, Jim you should have done that It s obvious to them where we went wrong yet they can t see all the things we think and feel at the time they can t live our lives for us and despite all the advice and evidence that we should have done THIS or done THAT, instead we DON T do that or we DO something entirely different So as I look at Stoner s life, here s where I think he went wrong Easy for me to say I ll put this in a spoiler in the unlikely event that there is anyone still out there who has not yet read Stoner view spoiler Why didn t he leave his wife Sure, in those days fewer people divorced, but some did He stayed in a terrible marriage for the good of his daughter But as an adult, his daughter turned into an alcoholic with her husband s parents basically raising their grandkid Why didn t he challenge his wife even on some of the smaller things such as when she took away his den out of spite It was his and his daughter s only island of sanity in that house Why didn t Stoner stand up for his woman friend when the university forced the breakup of their improper relationship They truly loved each other Why did it take him 20 years to find a solution and fight back against his spiteful chairman who punished him by taking away his graduate courses hide spoiler Spoiler alert read at your own peril.UPDATE December 2010 I just submitted this to Better Book Titles I hope they accept it.Original Review October 2009 This is the most straight forward linear narrative type of novel I ve read in the past year So at first, I was not impressed But I soon realized that the novel is impressive precisely because it is able to be so damn linear, the writing style so damn plain, and the characters so damn dull and yet and yet it manages to make me continue reading on, driven by what I don t know There is a constant melancholy through the book, but also its points of light.So that was the first 100 pages or so Then it gets good I mean, really good But I don t know why Nothing that much changes, it is just events in the life of this guy But I start to really care about him, or really understand him or something Let me just put it out there this is a depressing novel It is a devastating novel It made me cry But it is not one where horrible thing after horrible thing happens to good people Many of the things that happen are yes, horrible, but also very normal they are like small dissappointments.John Williams is able to kill you softly with his immovable patience, his prose which is like the most patient thing in the world, and which builds and builds by inching closer and closer to the precipice Precisely because he is not flashy Precisely because he is so restrained in his prose, that you never realize it when you re right on the edge of the cliff and you re like wait, how did I get here Also I don t mean to suggest that his prose is boring His prose is beautiful But straight forward And very functional It is in service to the subject matter And the fact that it is not flashy 95% of the time makes it all the devastating the other 5% of the time, when he floors it as in this passage Years later it was to occur to him that in that hour and a half on that December evening of their first extended time together, she told him about herself than she ever told him again And when it was over, he felt that they were strangers in a way that he had not thought they would be, and he knew that he was in love p53or in this passage It was a passion neither of the mind nor of the flesh rather, it was a force that comprehended them both, as if they were but the matter of love, its specific substance To a woman or to a poem, it said simply Look I am alive p 250I ve rambled long enough Let me just say a few things, because I m a bit delirious The characters They are complex and blameless That is part of the devastation You can t blame them for the decisions they make Each one, even the ones that make our protagonist s life hell, you can t blame them because the writer makes you understand slowly why they are the way they are What drives each character to drive each other mad I read on one of these goodreads reviews someone said It only troubles me that every single thing that Stoner thinks and says and does seems so incredibly right, or at least perfectly understandable, on first reading That s what I mean He didn t do anything wrong Everything he does is understandable He was just being himself the best way he knew how And so was every character in this book.