The Pequod Review:

John Williams's Stoner was well-reviewed on its release in 1965, but sold poorly. Even after Williams’s later novel Augustus (1972) won the National Book Award, the book still failed to find an audience. It wasn’t until its 2006 re-issuance by NYRB Classics that Stoner took off and became a widely praised "lost masterpiece" of American fiction. 

The novel is the story of William Stoner, a poor Missouri farm boy who abandons his family’s way of life to pursue an academic career in poetry at the University of Missouri. The book primarily takes place on campus, and the plot is somewhat undeveloped, but Williams has an spare and direct style as he describes Stoner's attempt to find purpose and meaning in life. Despite a glacial narrative and a dreary atmosphere, there are excellent moments of interiority as Stoner finds himself held back by self-consciousness and self-indulgence:

Dispassionately, reasonably, he contemplated the failure that his life must appear to be. He had wanted friendship and the closeness of friendship that might hold him in the race of mankind; he had had two friends, one of whom had died senselessly before he was known, the other of whom had now withdrawn so distantly into the ranks of the living that...

He had wanted the singleness and the still connective passion of marriage; he had had that, too, and he had not known what to do with it, and it had died. He had wanted love; and he had had love, and had relinquished it, had let it go into the chaos of potentiality. Katherine, he thought. "Katherine."

And he had wanted to be a teacher, and he had become one; yet he knew, he had always known, that for most of his life he had been an indifferent one. He had dreamed of a kind of integrity, of a kind of purity that was entire; he had found compromise and the assaulting diversion of triviality. He had conceived wisdom, and at the end of the long years he had found ignorance. And what else? he thought. What else?

What did you expect? he asked himself.