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Stoner, by John Williams

In the deluge of new books we booksellers are inundated with, it's nice to occasionally step back and read a classic. An upcoming work-related trip prompted me to pick up this well-respected work of American mid-Century fiction, and I enjoyed it immensely. It feels a bit like The Bell Jar, perhaps due to the time in which it was written and the collegiate atmosphere that permeates the two works.

William Stoner is born to a farming family in Missouri and grows up fully expecting to take over the farm once his parents are no longer able to work the meager land. But he gets sent off to college instead, to the newly formed Department of Agriculture. A required sophomore English seminar opens Stoner's eyes to the wonders of literature, and the course of his life is utterly changed. Stoner proceeds to get his degree in literature, then a Master's and finally a PhD., watching his beloved institution weather World War I and the death of a good friend, and eventually World War II. …

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