Stoner—chronicling the sad and quiet life of a Missouri farm boy, William Stoner, who discovers academia in 1910 and becomes a passionate and dedicated teacher of literature—was first published in 1965. That year, 2,000 copies were printed and the book by author John Williams earned decent reviews before dying the very natural literary death of a quiet story. Another 5,000 copies were sold from 2003 to 2012, when Stoner went into Vintage print.
Then, in the summer of 2013, this unassuming American novel was topping literary charts across Europe, where William’s opaque, yet achingly sincere character and the deep ordinary misery he suffers—expounded upon in some of the purest and most beautiful prose you’ll ever read about a terribly ordinary American life—broke readers’ hearts.
By October of that year, The New Yorker was heralding Stoner, “The Greatest American Novel You’ve Never Hear Of,” and in 2014, The New York Times Magazine urged “You Should Seriously Read Stoner Right Now.”
Now, since 2015 marks the book’s 50th year (as well as the 21st anniversary of the author’s passing); and since Stoner is—finally—the buzzword in literary circles across this country; and because the book really is that good, you probably should get yourself a copy. Be warned, this is no easy reading: Stoner’s trials, heartbreaking and relentless (perhaps even more so for their ordinariness—think failed marriage, failed finances, failed career, failed love and failed dreams) far exceed the few and minor tribulations in his life.
Still, the late, but truly well-deserved success of this little book is bound to make you smile—once you’ve turned that last page and wiped away your tears.