Friday 5 July 2013

Stoner Fever

Yes, it's the Greatest Novel You've Never Read - so great and unread that it even made it onto the Today programme this morning, where Ian McEwan attempted, with mixed success, to explain just what it is about John Williams's Stoner that makes it a masterpiece. He was not helped by his interviewer, the ineffable Sarah Montagu, suggesting that it didn't sound like much of a beach read (but there was an almost touching moment when McEwan reflected on how quickly a novelist's work can be forgotten - well quite...).
  The Stoner bandwagon was set rolling here by Bryan Appleyard's piece in the Sunday Times. Indeed it was he who had put Ian McEwan on to Stoner, just as I had put Bryan on to it, and I in my turn had been put on to it by Patrick Kurp and other luminaries of the American blogscape. That's how it works, and it's one of the things I most love about the blog world. When I look back over my five years or so of reading and writing blogs, I realise how many books there are that I have discovered this way, and would most probably never have found back in the pre-blog world. The novels of William Maxwell, Flannery O'Connor and Shirley Hazzard, Stanley Elkins' The Dick Gibson Show, Charles Portis's Masters of Atlantis, Garret Keizer's Help, Christina Stead's The Man Who Loved Children, the poems of Kay Ryan, Stefan Zweig, Bruno Schulz - all of these, and many more, I might never have come across but for the wonders of the blogscape. Come to think, there are probably a few candidates for Greatest Novel You've Never Read in there - at least on this side of the Atlantic, where so many of the best American writers are strangely little read. John Williams was, of course, among them, and I hope those who now seek out Stoner move on to the utterly extraordinary Butcher's Crossing
  Meanwhile, if anyone has any more suggestions for Greatest Novel You've Never Read, I'll of course be glad to have them...


  1. To paraphrase the eccentric rural uncle in Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate, I've only never read one novel in my life--Ulysses by James Joyce. It was so frightfully good I never bothered to never read another.

  2. Ha ha - puts me in mind of Peter Cook's rejoinder whenever anyone told him they were writing a novel.
    'Oh really. Neither am I.'

  3. Yes..........Couldn't have put it better myself regarding books recommended by bloggers Have just read Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer, recommended by, I think, Patrick Kurp, and have Stoner on my booklist.

  4. ". . . a closer look at where the book started, The University of Missouri, for Vox Magazine. As it turns out, John Williams found inspiration in some real faculty rivalries."