In 1965 a novel was published called STONER by John Williams. Williams was a professor at the University of Denver and not known in the publishing world. The book got a rave review from the New Yorker magazine, but it only sold 2,000 copies. It was out of print in a year. At the time of publication, the book was hailed as a classic and a masterpiece, but it did not matter, hardly anyone read the book.
STONER is a simple story about a young man, in 1910, who leaves farm life and goes to college. William Stoner becomes a teacher at the university where he studied and his life always revolved around the academic life. Some people called Stoner a very ordinary man, some even thought he was invisible. This is not a story filled with lots of action or cliffhangers, and yet it is very compelling for just being a story about a teacher.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s the book was an underground hit. Old copies were passed around from reader to reader, and it gained many fans, but no new copies were printed. It wasn’t until 2006 that it was republished and it was publicized as a classic. It became a hit in England and then it got translated in other languages, including Dutch.
In the last year, I would go into bookstores and see STONER on the bestseller table. Over and over again, I would see this book and wonder what was the story of this book? First, I assumed it was a Dutch book but then I realized it was written by an American writer. In 2013, the book was in the top 5 bestseller list for three months in The Netherlands. And then it went to #1 for 5 weeks in a row. Now I was really intrigued, so I placed a reserve at the library. I had to wait awhile to get an English copy, but there were plenty of Dutch editions, but that was not going to help me. So far, 125,000 copies of STONER have been sold in The Netherlands, all translated into Dutch.
All I can tell you is that this book is worth all the excitement and certainly all the praise. I truly loved this book and I want to make sure everyone knows about this surprising novel. The writing is simple, clear and spare. How does such a simple plot become a page turner? It is all about the talent of the writer and Williams created a brilliant character and story.
Extra book news: Last year I wrote about THE DINNER by Herman Koch. This is a Dutch book (Het Diner)that has become an international best seller. In fact, it has made history as it is now translated in 33 languages—the most ever for a Dutch book. There was a Dutch film that was recently released here and it was just announced that there will be an American production based on this book, directed by superb actress Cate Blanchett.

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  • Zabelle Damico  On September 22, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    Hi jane do u rd globe online? Today it had a HUGE article on cycling in holland. Tht it might int u. Northeastern u students r studying your efforts. Check it out. One reason fr it’s success is never mentioned:high cost of gas. Zabelle

    Sent from my iPhone


  • Shers Gallagher  On September 23, 2013 at 11:28 am

    CU-Denver is my Alma mater. Never having met this particular professor but teaching as well a turn for CU, I did understand the underpinnings of small town uni politics and backstabbing. Stoner’s life, though not auto-biographical of the writer’s own, still spelled out the often frustrating and depressive career of one in the teaching profession. After all is said and done we often look back and say: ‘What the F*** was that all about?’ John Williams did a good job of this in his well written novel. I’m only sorry that having walked the same halls I never got the pleasure of meeting the man in person.

  • krunn7  On September 24, 2013 at 5:56 am

    Thanks for the heads up. I will watch for Stoner.

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