T.R. Hudson Profile picture
Mar 14 23 tweets 4 min read
I recently recommended "Stoner" as a book one should read to understand the loss in standards in Academia and I stand by that assertion, but there is much more to this novel than the protagonists fight for academic rigor and his eventual demise toward that pursuit 1/ Image
The author, John Williams, tortures his protagonist without malice, portraying William Stoner's life as a series of disappointments. Stoner does not complain, but faces life with stoic resolve and it is that resolve that endears him to the reader and makes us admire him. 2/
This book, more than any other I've read, is the closest man has gotten to God's love for his creation. In the hands of a lesser writer, Stoner could be seen as pornography for those who revel in the weakness of sensitive young men. 3/
Stoner has been described as a "perfect novel" with commanding prose, a tight story structure and layered dialogue that reads true to the characters while also revealing the strain in the relationships portrayed. 4/
Stoner's life is portrayed as the pursuit of love and work, both of which he fails at. We are told this at the beginning of the novel, after Stoner's death. He is already being forgotten by the staff and students of the university he dedicated his life to. 5/
He is haunted by the ghost of a friend and colleague much smarter than he, who died in France after volunteering to fight in the First World War. This friend, Dave Masters, describes the University as an insane asylum for men who could not function out in the real world. 6/
Rather than them as pursuant towards the true and the beautiful, they are instead allowed to spin their wheels and do work of little consequence without hurting anyone else, which would be the alternative if there was no universities to hold them. 7/
The brilliance of the book is also in its portrayal of other characters lives. Their rises and falls. Stoner is inspired by and falls in love with literary because of an eccentric professor, Archer Sloane, whose worked a career of "getting mankind out of the slime" 8/
Only for the First World War to undo all that effort of Western Civilization and with that, Sloane ages prematurely and dies as broken as the post-war world.

Stoner also shows how as a young man, William Stoner loses any real connection to his subsistence farming parents. 9/
They send him to college to become a better farmer and this dutiful son grows as distant to them as the miles from their homestead to the University in Columbia, MO. When he announces he will not be returning with them after he graduates 10/
His father only laments that he tried to do right by his son and that they can maintain the farm without him, shouldering that responsibility so that he can pursue a scholar's life. By the time his father dies, they are familiar strangers to him. 11/
William marries Edith, the daughter of a banker from St. Louis, whose only dream in life is to go to Europe and see the world. She knows no practical skills and was raised instead to look nice and be protected from the world. Stoner falls in love with her 12/
Under false pretenses after she blurts out some inner turmoil she was feeling to him and believing she is his kindred spirit. But whereas William stands firm through life's adversities, Edith grows bitter and resentful towards life and throughout their marriage 13/
Turns that cruelty towards her husband because he is the only person around. Once they have a child, who Stoner loves unconditionally, the child becomes another front in Edith's cold War until that relationship fractures and Grace, who was once her fathers shadow 14/
Is as unfamiliar with him as he became to his own parents. The only time we see Stoner make any sort of stand against his domineering wife is when Grace becomes pregnant out of wedlock and will not allow Edith to torture their scared daughter. 15/
Stoner's academic life is as failed as his marriage. When Archer Sloane dies, his position as head of the English Department goes to Hollis Lomax, a hunchback who reminds Stoner of his long passed friend, Dave Masters. They both share the same love of literature, but 16/
Become bitter rivals when Stoner fails Lomax's favorite student due to the boy's lack of academic bone fides. Lomax takes this as a slight and for the rest of Stoner's career, he is relegated to teaching intro level survey courses to Freshmen who need an English requirement 17/
The two bright spots in Stoners life come in the form of a graduate student, Katherine, who engages in an affair with William. She is a literature student, getting her PhD and revives Stoner to a state of child like innocence. However, this love is fleeting 18/
As university politicking by Lomax threatens her prospects as well as her standing in greater society and William is forced to let go of this momentary happiness for the greater good. 19/
The other bright spot comes in his friendship with Gordon Finch another fellow grad student turned University Dean who throughout their lives protects William from Lomax, introduces him to Edith at William's request, and leads a life of happy ignorance in contrast to William's 20
Finch is the dullest of the three friends at the beginning of the novel, but the most true. He serves as William's best man, and though William feels a detached familiarity to the man, Finch treats William with brotherly love and true friendship until William's last days. 21/
Stoner is most relatable to today because he is a man stuck in the Longhouse. His domineering wife controls his personal affairs while a spiteful, malformed monster controls his work. He stands against these forces with quiet dignity, never making hay until necessary. /22
May we all take Stoner as a cautionary tale, while not condemning the man who can be seen as a Patron Saint of academics, who don't want to see their asylum given over to the inmates, nor subverted by those with malice in their hearts 23/23

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More from @tr_hudson

Nov 18, 2022
Hey, do you kids like Westerns? Me, too. Especially that Clint Eastwood trilogy that goes over the opening of the West, it’s heyday, and the closing of the West. “I didn’t know the dollars trilogy did that?” you’ll say, but that’s not the one I’m talking about.
I speak of course, about what I’ll call the “Man with Many Names” trilogy. The first entry in our trilogy is “The Outlaw Josie Wales”. We see in the beginning of the film, the protagonist is a farmer at the start of the Civil War. But, those damn Yankees come and kill his family.
(Another reason Westerns are based is their unabashed hatred of the North. There are several reasons for this, but chief among them is that Westerns define themselves as the frontier,
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