I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:
If a friend asks you to recommend a really good book—good writing, good characters, good story—but with no other qualifications … what would you recommend?
To select one book is always a difficult task. To judge by writing, character, and story alone, I pick John Williams’s Stoner. It’s one of those quiet novels following a straight course of a protagonist who strives in silence. Stoner is a farm boy, initially studying agriculture and a requirement of his course is to take a class in English literature. Good things do happen in Stoner’s life, but they all end badly. He relishes teaching students, but his career is stymied by a malevolent head of department; he falls in love and marries, but knows within a month that the relationship is a failure; he adores his daughter, but she is turned against him; he is given sudden new life by an affair, but finds love vulnerable to outside interference, just as the academy is vulnerable to the world. Towards the end of his life, when he has endured many disappointments, he thinks of academe as “the only life that had not betrayed him”.
Stoner is a portrait of a man characterized by formidable determination. Every once in a while comes a novel that is so remarkable in its quality that it stands out not only as an example of what literature (well-written fiction) should be, but also as a satisfying reading experience all by itself.