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"Stoner", an Ignored Masterpiece

Forgive me for posting it so late. You know, for teachers June can be really hectic! But here it goes and I hope to post now regularly again!

People sometimes confuse John Williams with the African-American writer John A. Williams, or even with the composer of Star War, actually that last one is the main result on Google when you type “John Williams”...

One of Williams' friends, Dan Wakefield, said in 1986: "John is almost famous for not being famous. This is Hemingway without bluster, Fitzgerald without fashion, Faulkner stripped of pomp." And that summarizes well his fame. For some reason for most unknown, Williams wrote a master novel, greatly ignored. 

"Stoner" is a 1965 novel, rejected seven times it almost finished Williams' writing carrer, but thankfully, was  finally published by the Viking. Reissued in 1972 by Pocket Books, in 2003 by Vintage and in 2006 by New York Review Books Classics with an introduction by John McGahern, it has been categorized under the genre of the academic novel, or the campus novel. "Stoner" follows William Stoner's undistinguished career and workplace politics, his marriage to Edith, his affair with his colleague Katherine, and his love and pursuit of literature. It may sound boring and uninteresting, but in reality the reader becomes engrossed in its pages from the very beginning.

Williams wrote the story longhand over a period of years, working from detailed notes and outlines. There are few revisions in what appears to be the original draft — an amazing feat for a book so careful in its language. 

Some want to see "Stoner" as an autobiographical novel, but to consider it in these terms would be unfair both to the author and the unique character he created. We have to remember that Stoner was antisocial, introvert and very reserved, while Williams was always the spirit of the party, at least until he got too drunk to control his anger and scared people away... The only similarity between the two of them is that both worked at the univeristy and both loved literature.

Like many great novels, it sold badly, but became a weird icon among the university students and professors, who were passing scare copies from one person to another.  Because of that, after Stoner, Williams found himself increasingly in demand as a visiting professor or a speaker at conferences. He was encouraged to apply for and received prestigious grants and awards. He didn't have many readers, but they were "the right ones".

Unfortunately, it continues to be te same today: many haven't heard about "Stoner". If you are one of them: please, give it a try!