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: 4

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.

jordanstella said...

You mentioned that you went back to the source to cite Bryan Woolley's "An Interview with John Williams" that appeared in the Denver Quarterly 20.3 (1985-96). I was wondering if you could provide me with access to the original source material. I've searched everywhere on the web and it seems there are no accessible copies. I'd be happy with a digital scan!

Michael Leddy said...

I don’t have a copy; I read the interview in a library. A likely reason why there are no copies online: it’s under copyright, and fairly recent copyright at that, and the Denver Quarterly is probably interested in enforcing that copyright. A university library or interlibrary loan would be the best way to get a copy.