Thursday, 18 September 2014
Devouring Books: Stoner by John Williams
Stoner has been on my radar for quite a while now, and let's not talk about the fact that I thought for a long time that it was going to be about drugs and, you know, a stoner, in spite of the fact that I had literally no evidence to back this up. I mean, look at the cover! It's got books on it! Stoners don't read books! (Or... probably they do. In a super deep and then unintentionally hilarious way. Ah, drugs.)
But anyway. Stoner is NOT about drugs, or stoners, if you can believe it. Much as I would have enjoyed that book (maybe I need to read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas again...) I actually think I liked this one even more, and it's tricky to pin down exactly what I liked about it. It's such a quiet book- not much happens, and it's not even that long; but somehow it manages to encapsulate an entire life- one that feels so real that you can't help but care about it.
That life belongs to William Stoner, a man who was supposed to be a farmer but went to University, fell in love with writing, and became an English lecturer. He also gets married, avoids two wars, gets involved in University politics, and, in short, does all the things that make up a life. It's so weird to think about now, because trying to sum it up makes it sound SO boring- 'there's this guy and he does stuff and it's all good...'- but when I was reading it I was like 'this is IT. This is life. This is truth' and all those other things that make me sound like a twat when I put them in writing...
Essentially, I think Stoner touched me especially because, you know, I can relate to falling in love with words, and right now I can relate to the beautiful idea of (maybe) being an academic for life, whilst also being nervous about all the politics involved in that. Or maybe it's just because Stoner is an incredibly human book- it really does cover all facets of life, and the fact that it begins at the start of the twentieth century does nothing to make it still wholly relatable- and the fact that I related so completely to a white male at the turn of the century surprised me more than it would surprise you, believe me.
I don't really know what else to say about this book- if I've made it sound horribly boring then I've probably failed to pass on the level of its impact on me. Quiet though it is, it's still so (is she going to say human again? She's going to say human) human and real and just really very very good. And if that's not a ringing enough endorsement for you, then I don't really know what else to say.