Gatsby and “Stoner.”

There have been a lot of “rediscovery” essays about John Edward Williams’ Stoner, but none of them seem to quite give the book the attention it deserves:

“Stoner” is undeniably a great book, but I can also understand why it isn’t a sentimental favorite in its native land. You could almost describe it as an anti-“Gatsby.” I suspect one reason “Gatsby” is a classic is that, despite his delusions and his bad end, we all secretly think Gatsby’s pretty cool.

Having just finished this novel—it took me far too long to get to it, and I read the entire thing in only a couple sittings—I totally agree that the book’s “construction is invisibly flawless, like the kind of house they don’t know how to build anymore.” (But I also agree that Stoner’s antagonists are the “most problematic aspect.”)

Gatsby is notable for the way it portrays the vapid life many of us want. Stoner is better for the way it portrays the life that most of us have.