John Williams, an English Academic at the University of Denver, wrote “Stoner” in 1963. In a conversation with his agent in which she gave him little hope of commercial success, the author answered her with this words: “The only thing I’m sure of is that it’s a good novel; in time it may even be thought of as a substantially good one.” Time proved him right.
by John Williams
[NYRB Classics, 2006]
In this time and age, the time and age of Internet and its overwhelming and omnipresent army of Social Media networks, it is really hard to think what interest if any could be found in looking into your inner self, that part of your person of which you cannot take any selfies. Or for that matter, what joy could await in the search of Truth, that evasive prey. So time consuming and again, no selfies to be made. And to make things worse during the said search, could anyone appreciate the company of a man that from all points of view could be considered nothing but an absolute loser?
All the above doesn’t seem much of a compelling case to draw your over-sought attention. But if it does, if it really leaves you intrigued about what “Stoner” (1965) truly holds, so much that you can drop your gadgets for a few hours, you may get to know who you are. Furthermore, you may start wondering who the real loser is in this life.
This book was written 50 years ago this year and it sold a mere 2,000 copies. It could have happened that in its age it didn’t present such a striking contrast with the current state of affairs as it does today. In any case, the thing is “Stoner” topped best-seller lists all across Europe last year. In fact, it will probably not be me the first one nor the last one you hear talking about this novel.
I don’t want to hold you any longer, I am way beyond 140 characters already, so let’s get to the point: in addition to a profound display of knowledge about human condition, “Stoner” is an irresistible exhibition of command of the Art of Literature resulting into one of last Century’s top masterpieces. So much, that in the humble opinion of this reviewer, no more than a handful of Nobel Prize winners could have ever dreamt of writing anything comparable. Enough said.
Paco Vique is a civil engineer, poet, writer, voracious reader, radio enthusiast and co-founder with Javier García del Moral of The Wild Detectives.