Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Possibly the saddest book I've ever read. And it's not a tragedy, at least not in the sense that the protagonist, through a fault or a flaw, comes to a dismal end. No, it's just a book that recounts (in perfect prose) the unimportant life of a mediocre English professor at a midwest University.

William Stoner is the only son of a farmer who falls in love with literature and becomes a tenured assistant professor. He marries an unstable woman who, deep down, despises him, and he endures many day-to-day indignities at work and home. There are sequences in this novel that filled me with a kind of rage, especially the way in which the chairman of his department turns against Stoner, and the way in which his wife works at turning their only daughter against his father.

There is a small movement to revive the reputation of this 1965 novel. It's currently in print in a lovely New York Review Books edition. It's well worth reading, despite how painful it is at times. By the book's end the protagonist has taken on a certain amount of grace. I found it very moving.


  1. It sounds very interesting. I will see if I can obtain a copy.

  2. Just goes to show you that you can't judge a book by it's cover. I was expecting something completely different from a book with that title. That's his last name!? So somber and sad and no driving around looking for a White Castle at all. In a weird sort of way this sounds like a good Fall/Winter read.