In 2013, “The New Yorker” published a book review of John Williams’ novel “Stonener” entitled “The Greatest American Novel You Haven’t Heard”. The opening chapter said that “art also has late justice”, and it has a strong momentum, as if to write a literary injustice case.
Stoner was published in 1965, when about 2,000 copies were sold. John Williams died in 1994. “Stoner” was out of print at that time and has never been translated into other languages. In my reading range, it has never been mentioned in any history of contemporary American literature. By 2013, the book had sold more than 120,000 copies, even in the Dutch version. Several weeks before the bestseller list, the French, Spanish, and Italian versions were similar. It sounded like there was another one in the literary world. Kafka or Schultz. Literary critics, writers, and readers, everyone wants to make soy sauce in this bloody inspirational drama to prove that they are different from their peers 50 years ago-smarter, deeper, and more tasteful.
But John Williams is not another writer known for being buried and failing in his lifetime. Except for having participated in World War II in Myanmar and India, he has had a lifetime of success (the battle without dying may have been a success) . After receiving his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri, he became the head of the Denver University’s creative writing project and the founder of the “Denver Quarterly”. He taught for more than 30 years at the University of Denver, and retired in 1986. He has been married three times and has three children. He lives to 72 years old (as an alcoholic, he cannot be short-lived). His literary path is even more enviable: he published 4 novels and two collections of poems in his life. When the first novel was published, he was only 25 years old and had not obtained a doctorate; the historical novel “Augus” published in 1973 “Capital” won the National Book Award. The winners of this award include Faulkner, Updike, Saul Bellow and Philip Rose. In 1974, the winning work was Thomas Pinchin’s The Rainbow of Gravity. Even if this is now called “The Stoner” that “you have never heard of” by “The New Yorker”, “New Yorker” once gave a short and positive evaluation when it was first published: “A sublime work. Williams demonstrated extraordinary control ability and told an extremely difficult story.” In short, as a book and a person, the fate of Stoner and author John Williams is far from miserable. Yes, they have been forgotten by history for decades. However, most of the books and most people in this world can’t even be forgotten. They seem to have never existed at all. Although Stoner and John Williams are extinguished lights, you see that the wick is black and there are traces of burning.
There is a wonderful reflection of the stories inside and outside the book. William Stoner, a slender boy from a farming family, father wanted him to take better care of the farm in the future, let him go to the agricultural college of the local university, but he was attracted by literature like Zhong Gu and changed his major. After graduating from bachelor’s degree, continue to study master of arts. Appreciating his teacher Archer Sloan gave him the opportunity to teach while reading a doctorate. He stayed in school, commented on the professor, got a tenure for life, and published a book that was not well written but sure Not bad academic work. He got married the first time in love. His wife was of good origin, beautiful and elegant. They first lived in a small apartment, and later bought a house with a loan, and gave birth to a daughter, who looked as beautiful as her mother. When he was middle-aged, Stoner fell in love with a female graduate student. Love was a fire. They avoided family and friends and secretly went to a mountain resort for a week. They stepped on the snow to walk in the forest during the day and sat in the fireplace at night. Chatted on the folded carpet before, “Then silently watched the flames on the logs flying in all directions, watching the flames flying on the other’s face.” They later broke up because of some vulgar shocking but totally acceptable reasons. Years later, he bought a book written by the other party, and the title page read, “Dedicated to Weiss”. Later, he died and died of cancer.
It’s such a life, mediocre and frustrating, but from these words floating on the surface, you can’t see the shadow of failure, just like a house with a decent exterior decoration, only the people who live in it know that night When it comes, every room behind the curtains is a haunted ruin, family, career, heart, it is not the case. Who can think of it? William Stoner’s marriage had already failed on his honeymoon. Later, his wife insisted on buying a house they couldn’t afford because he didn’t want to hear his voice anytime and anywhere, and only the room allowed them to isolate each other. Later, the wife calmly and hysterically crushed the intimacy between him and his daughter. Only when the daughter dared to talk to him, Stoner “discovered that not only is it possible to live, but even occasional joy is possible.” . Later, her daughter grew up. In order to escape from this suffocating family, she did not hesitate to marry a man who couldn’t even like it. She also had children and began to drink alcohol. The most desperate thing is that they have absolutely no idea how and why this happened. Two freely-loving adults did not even have a violent quarrel after marriage. Their daily lives are like ghosts in the dark. Accumulating strength day by day, eventually devouring life itself.
The most intense plot of the whole book is Stoner’s best efforts to prevent a graduate student who he thinks unqualified from entering the British literature major. He offended the head of the department for this and was bullied for the next 20 years (of course in the university) Bullying means that you can’t take the class you want to take, the schedule is arranged in a mess, and other things that don’t seem to matter). When talking to a friend about why he insisted so much, Stoner said: “We can’t let him in. Because if we do that, we become like this world, like unreal, like… Our only hope is to keep him out.”
With so many critical moments in his life, John Williams chose a boring thesis defense as Stoner’s life climax. The author lets us know that they are important. At least for Stoner, these are the only weapons he confronts with this damn world and his own damn life. To defend the dignity and dignity of another world, Stoner, a trivial English literature teacher, wielded a sword that he had never edged. But he still failed, the student was successfully admitted, and Stoner returned to his daily life as bad as possible, but he knew that he once pulled out the sword, which made his life a bit different. different.
At the end of the story, Stoner was dying. Before his death, he took the only academic book he published, and he looked at the faded and worn red cover and smiled. The book was completely forgotten and did not come in handy, but he felt it didn’t matter. “He had no such illusion that he would find himself in it, in the printed text that had faded. And, he knew that himself Of a small part of it, he can’t deny it, and he will always be in it”. A small part of Stoner is in the book whose name is not mentioned, and a small part of John Williams is in Stoner. Life is a haunted house, but in the place where ghosts wander, there is a book written by yourself. For everyone who writes, this is all different.