“Stoner” by John Williams was recommended in a review of something else I read recently so was not sure what to expect.
Its basically the story of an ordinary life and novels which transform the life most of us experience into a unique narrative drama of twists and turns and ups and downs with which we can identify are delightful in the empathy they strike deep into our souls.
Stoner, the son of an American couple who have know nothing but farming and whose parents fail to hold on to their restless son, is attracted unexpectedly to the life of an academic when his talent is spotted whilst at university.
Then there is his marriage, his sadness, his joy in knowledge and the sharing of intelligence, an unexpected affair and a beautifully written death scene (one of the best I have ever read) as a starter for ten.
But at every twist and turn, including the compex relationships he shares with hss academic colleagues through two world wars, there is always the possibility of the unexpected.
In Middle Age Stoner first glimpses what Williams, in this quasi-autobiographical work describes as 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 intelligence of the heart.”
At the end of his life he is forced to reflect on the indivudality of each soul as reflection on the course a life has taken is iconically tied up in one of his long forgetten academic works. “It hardly mattered to him that the book was forgotten and that it served no use; and the question of its worth at any time seemed almost trivial. He did not have the illusion that he would find himself there, in that fading print; and yet, he knew, a small part of him that he could not deny was there, and would be there.”
This is the first book I have read for a long time which made me miss my stop on the train. So, for that achievement at least, it’s worth a read!