It’s safe to say that I’m back on track with my reading and it feels just like the old days. Mind you, there was one “incident” in my adolescent years where I scavenged the Singapore Changi airport for Stephenie Meyer’s final instalment of the Twilight saga. For as long as I remember, books have been accompanying my days as a dangly little girl with short, sprouting curls on her head; looking at the world around her with a quiet, wide-eyed curiosity. Diving into countless worlds and adventures of fictional characters helped me to catch a glimpse of the deepest realms of human nature. From joy, anguish to greed, to betrayal; I know I want to feel it all when I let my eyes glaze over words on the crisp pieces of paper the minute I open the page.
Anyways, Stoner by John Williams was my recent read and it made me feel stoic, yet acceptant. Why is that so? It tells the tale of William Stoner, who lets his life unravel with just the amount of both indifference and then like I said, acceptance. He grew up as an only child on a hardscrabble farm with his parents, performing jobs as he is expected to do like it is the only thing he knows how to. His father, was a visionary man who trusted of the reward and change that comes in farming. Yet he knew that as a man Stoner must should be equipped, and sent him to University of Missouri to study science. With no complaint whatsoever, Stoner agreed and went about his classes.
However it was one day when he sat in an English class with who would be his future mentor, Archer Sloane. The day’s topic was Shakespeare and his sonnets which Stoner was a stranger off and he found himself scrambling for answers when Archer asked him a question. This pivotal moment set off his curiosity of Literature and without his parents’ notion, Stoner changed his major to Literature, which defined him until the end of the book. From then on, we will see Stoner’s theme of straying aside from society’s expectations of him with all the snide remarks that come.
Stoner became a teacher and for once, we get to see him in his own light, to catch that glimpse of that simplicity in the need of emotional connection. Unfortunately, he married the wrong woman. So fragile, she simply couldn’t return his affection and sought only emotional wars with her husband. This part of the book my friends, left me so agonized because all he wanted was a life and a love he could call his own.
There is so much more that goes on within the book but for now I leave you with just enough to picture him as a character who dealt with all the elements that test our limitations. Now, you might think that his stoic demeanor will leave you utterly bored with the story but you will realize that he never takes a grudge upon other people and the world, to continue in trying his best. Of course there were times where I wanted to shake his shoulders because he could have acted differently, or made another decision. But I could not blame him for wanting to stay true to he is. I understood that he is a flawed man, but aren’t all of us? I loved the sincerity and honesty of the prose and despite all of his shortcomings, I still managed to appreciate that a satisfying life of the mind triumphs over life’s more unbearable times. And of course in my case, faith as well.
Stoner might not be everyone’s cup of tea but all the years I’ve been reading, I know how dive into a book with a clear head (although I can’t exactly say the same thing for Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’, haha). Anywho, this book reminds me of Albert Camus’ ‘The Stranger’ to which a short description best align with this book: a story about “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd”.
Five whole stars to you, Mr. John Williams.