… I find I must point out, again, that Stoner, the character, is a rapist, that Williams is a mediocre and outrageously prejudiced writer, and that the book’s success is a jewel-perfect example of the culture celebrating white male mediocrity well beyond its true value. But I wrote about all that elsewhere, and this review is about Almond’s book.
I don’t remember Stoner raping anybody, but I’m old and my memory isn’t what it used to be. But I suppose I do qualify as a white male mediocrity, and I didn’t sense from the book that such was being celebrated. I read it as an accurate account of a more or less unexceptional life. Stoner’s one triumph is near the end, when he puts his academic rival in his place. The characters in the book are like many people one encounters. The book has no heroes. What does Ms. Coldiron think of the young lady Stoner has the affair with? That young lady seems fond of the old boy. Doesn’t she dedicate her dissertation to him? I don’t think Stoner has any ax to grind. True, the characters are mediocrities, and they are white. But there are many such, and there’s no reason not to write about them. If you don’t like such people — and I gather Ms. Coldiron doesn’t, at least if they're male— well you’re not going to like a novel about them. But other people might.Stoner probably has been overpraised, but taken on its own unsentimental terms, it isn’t a bad book. In fact, it’s pretty good one.