Friday, August 16, 2013

A teaching thought

From an interview with novelist John Williams, who is speaking of William Stoner, the professor protagonist of Williams’s 1965 novel Stoner:

The important thing in the novel to me is Stoner’s sense of a job. Teaching to him is a job — a job in the good and honorable sense of the word. . . . [I]t’s the love of the thing that’s essential. And if you love something, you’re going to understand it. And if you understand it, you’re going to learn a lot. It all grows out of the love of the thing. The lack of that love defines a bad teacher. And there are a lot of bad teachers.
Stoner is yet another New York Review Books reprint of my acquaintance. More than that: it’s a beautifully written, beautifully felt novel. Every element in its plot seems inevitable, yet everything in the novel is a surprise. I recommend Stoner with great enthusiasm.

In May, NPR reported that Stoner was then a bestseller through much of Europe.

[Bryan Woolley’s “An Interview with John Williams” appeared in the Denver Quarterly 20.3 (1985–86). A portion of the interview is quoted with mistakes in the introduction to the 2003 NYRB volume. I’ve gone back to the source.]

comments: 2

Elaine said...

I read that book! It wasn't all that many years ago, though--so, long after its publication.
I'm afraid it kind of made me want to shoot myself.
Should I reread it?

Michael Leddy said...

I wish I could tell you. It’s so well written. Bleak though, for sure. If I had read this novel years ago, it would have made me think twice about getting into academic life. Reading it now, I see it differently. I’m going to try to get through Butcher’s Crossing, the other NYRB reprint, in the near future.