John Williams goes deep in his tale of farm boy turned English professor, William Stoner. As a professor himself, Williams may be mixing in quite a bit of non-fiction to achieve a reality literary fiction experience. He may also be thinking the life (his) worth living thoughts.
In the book’s beginning has a summation of Stoner’s life that describes him as a nobody. An Aggie turned middling professor that nobody would bother to remember. That description does haunt you throughout the book, as Stoner is actually a zealot about his craft. He goes so far as to intellectually assassinate a Ph.D candidate who is the pet of the new Department chairman. His integrity sentences him to the loss of cherished upperclassman studies and a decades long condemnation into sophomoric general studies. He does a fine job with standard text among the indifferent, but eventually realizes he must soar. He pulls a Dead Poet’s Society move and chucks the syllabus text book in favor of more breathtaking alternatives. There is outrage, but his student’s flourish measurably.
This is a surprisingly passionate read. Except for an extramarital affair, it’s a pretty quiet…almost. Big Ups to John Williams. He does accomplish something that many writers cannot. He is able to change the mood of the reader. When Stoner is up against his antagonists, if you put the book down at the wrong time, you may be going to Happy Hour fuming. Williams also leaves you wanting more of the late Dave Masters insight. You’ll like the book. Not overtly philosophical, but thoughtful.