On the surface this is a simple book about a boy who grows up on a farm and then enters the University and stays there for the rest of his life. But in reality it is about everything that makes us human; the loss, the loves, the battles.
It is a sad tale, but with dignity. Written by someone who has traveled to the core of life and suckled at its breast. Stoner is not unhappy despite every good thing that happens to him is taken away; he marries the wrong woman and becomes estranged from his beloved daughter. He makes the one, exactly wrong enemy at the university. Through all this it is difficult to believe in the happiness of Stoner, but Stoner is happier than most because he acts upon what he loves with integrity and handles his battles quietly with grace.
The book is simple, almost oldfashioned, but its well-polished simple prose carries it forwards along with a distanced tightness in the storytelling. And also with crumbs of contemplation thrown to the masses;
“In his extreme youth Stoner had thought of love as an absolute state of being to which, if one were lucky, one might find access; in his maturity he had decided it was the heaven of a false religion, toward which one ought to gaze with an amused disbelief, a gently familiar contempt, and an embarrassed nostalgia. Now in his middle age he began to know that it was neither a state of grace nor an illusion; he saw it as a human act of becoming, a condition that was invented and modified moment by moment and day by day, by the will and the intelligence and the heart.”
The university is described as a refuge for people who cannot be anywhere else and in that I felt a great kinship with Stoner; the love felt within the walls of the University is a safe space for those that are not meant for reality. It is a space for them to be and a something to do. When I read it I could not help but wonder; I, too, will never amount to anything. When I die, I, too, will ask my self “What did you expect?”.