Monday, February 21, 2011

Stoner by John Williams

I noted earlier on samizdat about my fetish for piebald literature, messy novels overripe with wastrels, tyros and counterfeiters are my bag, man. That said, the last two novels I've finished by David Mitchell and John Williams respectively run rather the contrary. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and Stoner offer achievements in precision, not gambits of excess. Remarkably, I loved both of them.

Williams steels his narrative with a dichotomy of brilliant but elemental forces, light, heat, stoic trees and featureless fields exhausted in use and barren in promise. Opposing this backdrop is a character forever out of focus, the voices around him lack clarity, most are lost as mumbles, his own agency appears equally indefinite until he actualizes his passion for literature. This affords him purpose but the entanglements of human baggage bring him low. There is still a triumph in this literal account of failure. I felt moved by its accomplishment.


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