STONER by John Williams (No, not that John Williams, a different one) is my Boyfriend



One of my favorite things in the world is the Bookseller’s Twilight Bark.

Let me explain. We remember the Twilight Bark from Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmations, that is, when Scotland Yard is unable to find lost puppies, the dogs pass a bark all over London to find their  missing sweethearts.

Booksellers have a bark too. Theirs lets us know which books are semi-obscure and have fallen a little bit through the cracks and bark it up so that informed readers become aware of what is not in the Amazon top 100 (or sometimes top 500,000), but are nevertheless, great, great, great, add-another-fifty-greats- great books. And if you listen carefully, on websites, on Twitter, in stores, you’ll start to hear the same titles appear again and again over the airwaves of the Bookseller’s Twilight Bark.

One of these books is STONER by John Williams.

Everyone’s excited because they think I’m finally writing up a novel about drugs.

No, I’m sorry, not today, go re-read ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST again if you need your fix. The “Stoner” in question is a last name, not a small-time weed dealer or even a high school pothead.

Looks like we need our friendly, neighborhood Synopsis Gadget to clear things up here.

Synopsis Gadget, go, go, go!

STONER follows the life and times of William Stoner, a man born at the end of the nineteenth century to an impoverished Missouri farming family. Stoner grows up to become an English professor and throughout his life struggles to deal with his difficult department and difficult life at home. The novel documents the tragedies, both mammoth and microscopic, of this man’s life as he lives through the 20th century.

Everyone’s like… really?  The life of an English teacher? Is it too late to make this novel all about drugs?

Don’t wish drugs on this novel! It’s perfect as it is. Sad as all get out, yes, but it’s the kind of emotional journey that makes a reader remember why she loves reading. Or at least that was this book’s effect on me. It’s funny, the titles are so similar, in so many ways this book reminded me of Carol Shield’s THE STONE DIARIES , which I recommended this past August. Both follow the sad and quiet lives of individuals in America (STONE DIARIES is a lady, and sometimes she lives in Canada) through the 20th century. STONER got into my heart the same way THE STONE DIARIES did. It might have burrowed even a little bit further into my aeortas and arteries.

So far I’ve had 100% success in recommending this book. That’s not common. People have crazy-different tastes. The only other book I’ve had this kind of rec luck with is NOTHING TO ENVY: ORDINARY LIVES IN NORTH KOREA, which I’m planning to write up here before we enter 2012: Some South American People a Long Time Ago Said the World Was Going to End Sometime Kind Of Around Here.

If you want a tragic, gorgeous, great book, get your hands on STONER.

WHAT KIND OF BOYFRIEND IS HE: An English professor who is happy when he reads and sad when he does everything else. He’s vaguely not sad when we’re kissing. But sad doing everything else.


We read big, dusty old books.

That’s what he wanted to do on our date.

I sneak smooches, natch and natch.

8 Comments on “STONER by John Williams (No, not that John Williams, a different one) is my Boyfriend”

  1. M-----l says:

    I read this one a couple months ago. I didn’t feel the need to smooch it, but I certainly enjoyed it. I must admit, though, that I was happy to finish it up and move on to something that wasn’t so sad.

  2. Emma Straub says:

    I smooch Stoner every chance I get. Once of my FAVES.

  3. Nadia says:

    I’ve heard some great things about this one and after reading your post I know that I need to read it. Great post! I think I’ve found a new boyfriend in Stoner:)

  4. Pearl Orner says:

    I was looking for Books Expo and by mistake I typed in brooklyn expo america and found your blog. I love it, even thou I’m much too old to enjoy it. My days of boyfriends are far behind me and even thou I’m widow and would rather read then smooch, your idea intrigues me. Never heard of Stoner till a few months ago from a bookclub faciliator who I admire, so when I saw the title on your blog I flipped out. Loved the book and Stoner and have recommended it constantly. Are you on goodreads?

  5. Christina says:

    I read this book back in May 2009 and honestly thought I was the only person who had ever heard of it. I’m glad to hear that you enjoy smooching it!

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