On Stoner by John Williams

A mid-century classic which is little known. William Stoner grows up a poor farmer’s son, he goes to college to study agriculture but becomes enamored with English literature and decides to stop farming and get a PhD. He spends his entire life at the University of Missouri as an English professor, he marries, has a child, has an affair, and fights with his boss. His marriage quickly becomes loveless as his wife fights to take control of his daughter’s life, ultimately destroying her personality. Everything seems to go wrong for Stoner. He fails a sycophantic student of the department head and ends up teaching freshman composition for a decade. His love affair is destroyed because his boss threatens to fire his mistress who is the only person Stoner has ever had an equal relationship with. His daughter grows up, becomes a teen mother, and then drinks herself into oblivion. He ultimately dies of cancer, still stuck as an assistant professor. But the writing is beautifully prosaic and relatively plain. There are moments of mystery and wonder, hints that he may have been a good teacher for some. Overall this was a great book. There are a number of scenes which will be very poignant to any academic.

Todd Suomela
Associate Director for Digital Pedagogy & Scholarship Department

My interests include digital scholarship, citizen science, leadership, and communications.