November 2012: Stoner

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November 2012: Stoner

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1tloeffler
Out 12, 2012, 9:55pm

Just starting up a thread for the November read--I expect that Jen & Becky will be finished with Gone Girl very soon! I believe we were planning to start discussing on 11/12/12, but that can be changed if it doesn't work! And the book is Stoner by John Williams.

2lindapanzo
Out 13, 2012, 4:57pm

This one sounds terrific. Hoping to join you on it.

3jfetting
Out 14, 2012, 5:51pm

I'm looking forward to it! My copy should come from the library in a week or so.

4labwriter
Out 15, 2012, 2:54pm

It looks good. I should have a copy soon.

5sjmccreary
Editado: Nov 9, 2012, 11:53am

Late to the party, but I've got an ILL request in for this book. Not sure how long it will take - depends on where they're getting it from, I suppose.

ETA - I see that there are copies available at both our neighboring library systems. I think we have reciprocal privileges - maybe I'll just drive over and get it myself.

6tloeffler
Nov 9, 2012, 1:28pm

You can borrow my copy Sandy. I've finished it.

7sjmccreary
Nov 9, 2012, 1:32pm

Terri, you could give the public library a run for their money!

8lindapanzo
Nov 9, 2012, 5:28pm

Has anyone finished this? Is it sad? Mark said it's sad. I don't think I could deal with sad right now.

9tloeffler
Nov 10, 2012, 7:16pm

I finished it. It is sad, but not really "crying sad." Just overall sad. I didn't have any issues with it, and I'm not doing a very good job of dealing with sad right now either.

10jfetting
Nov 11, 2012, 7:22pm

Waiting and waiting and waiting for it to come in. I think someone ahead of me is getting fined, because it was due a week ago. Grumble grumble. I'll join in when I can!

11labwriter
Nov 14, 2012, 9:02am

I found a used copy of this book at Amazon. I looked it over when it came in the mail, and I thought the same thing: the book looks like it would be depressing, and there's no way I can do "depressing" right now.

The blurb on the back of the book says, "Driven even deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude." I'm reading The Bone People right now, and one of the main themes is "isolation," but I'm not finding it depressing, since the main character seems to embrace the isolation. Stoner seems like it has a more depressing twist.

I'll be eager to hear what people think about the book!

12jfetting
Nov 20, 2012, 12:27pm

So I finished Stoner over the weekend. I would call it melancholy more than depressing. My one issue: I have a really hard time reading stories where the main character is treated badly by others (wives, department chairs, etc) for no apparent reason and then does nothing about it. These stories give me stomach aches, I have no idea why. And so I had that problem with this book, as well. Edith is horrible; I'm wondering if the scene in her room after her father died was supposed to make her a sympathetic character, or if I missed something here that explained what a nightmare she became, but it didn't work.

What's-his-name, the crippled member of the faculty, at least his bad behavior makes a little bit of sense, although why it is directed at Stoner I have no idea. The scene with the qualifying exam was hilarious; and the whole situation involving the handicapped student was familiar. Not because of the handicap, but because if you spend enough time in university departments you will inevitably encounter the student who clearly can't do the work and doesn't belong, but is kept around because he/she/it is somebody important's pet. Annoying to the rest of us, but I never imagined how frustrating it would be to be on the professor side of the equation, and not be able to kick somebody out who deserves it.

So I guess for me, the reason why I liked the book (not raving best-book-ever-OMG, but still a good read) is the academic setting. I'm not a literature person, not by training anyway, but the types of people you see in academic departments are the same throughout academia. I've seen a number of Gordon Finches, for instance. They're nice, but you wouldn't have to rely on them.

What did everyone else think? Another plus in my opinion: I love this NYRB classics imprint. The books feel so nice.

13tloeffler
Nov 22, 2012, 5:31pm

Sorry I didn't weigh in earlier.

I think I agree with you, Jenn. Not a favorite book, and I like your description as "melancholy" rather than depressing. I was also sad over the others' treatment of Stoner, especially Edith. Anyone who deprives a child of someone they obviously love ought to be hog-tied.

I never quite understood why Stoner never made it to one of the higher levels over the others who did (department chair, dean, etc.). He would have done a much better job, I thought. And I also chortled over the qualifying exam. I haven't spent much time in university departments, but some of the stories my son brings home from college make me want to go up there and have a talk with the principal (j/k--I know they don't have principals in college).

Overall, I did like the book, although I can't say why. I guess it was the writing--it really was a well-written book, and I'm glad I read it!

14sjmccreary
Nov 24, 2012, 12:47am

Stoner finally arrived today - amid much teasing from my kids about the name of the book and its author. Company coming tomorrow evening and symphony on Sunday afternoon, but I'm hoping to get a good start on it before Monday.

15sjmccreary
Nov 26, 2012, 1:08pm

I just finished the book. I have so many different thoughts about it, but what struck me as most significant was that the only time Stoner ever really asserted himself was in the matter of Walker - the student he wanted to fail. Every other key moment seems to have just happened to him, with little effort on his part to control anything. Not so much a sad story as a story about a sad life. I liked it very much.

16jfetting
Nov 26, 2012, 7:30pm

Yes, the Walker incident was the only one where he really stood up for what he thought was best. Even his decision not to join the army in WWI seemed more of a passive letting-it-happen, even though it was his choice.

Not so much a sad story as a story about a sad life

Yes, this, exactly.

17Donna828
Nov 26, 2012, 9:24pm

I'll "cheat" a bit and copy the comments I made on my thread...

I had mixed feelings about this book which may be in part due to listening to it. Not my preferred method. I was able to follow the simple linear story without any difficulty but the reader's voice almost put me to sleep. This could have been a problem as I spent the last six hours listening while I was driving to and from Kansas City.

Briefly the book is about William Stoner, son of hard-working farmers who sent him to the University of Missouri to learn "modern" farming methods in the early part of the 20th Century. Instead, he falls in love with literature and becomes a college professor. His biggest mistake in life was marrying Edith, a spoiled wealthy young woman, who should have sent him running for the hills of the Ozarks. She completely sucked all the life and joy out of both him and their daughter Grace. Stoner also makes a lifelong enemy in the English Department. Between the two of them, Stoner's life becomes a miserable existence.

The writing is very good, but not good enough to put any pizzazz into this dreary tale. I think if I had been reading it, I might have been caught up in the lovely language and given it a higher rating. I thought the ending was superb.