『Stoner』，作者「John Williams」。这本书大概是我这两年来读过最为感动、也是最为亲切的书。它写了一位文学院副教授的一生：穷苦出生、父辈都是农民，在大学课堂里由于某一刻的「神启」从农学改读文学，毕业后遇上战争导致系里人手短缺，便留了下来教书，为了守护住自己对象牙塔的信念而挂掉了一位不够格的研究生的口试，这位学生的导师记恨了他一辈子，在当上系主任后阻挠他升职、给他胡乱排课，也威胁了他和系里另一位女教师的地下恋情。他的家庭生活也很难堪，妻子深陷抑郁（应该是双相），控制、夺走了他们的女儿、不让他和女儿亲近，而女儿成年后赶忙结婚逃离了家庭，成日酗酒。后来他有了一段婚外的地下恋情，最后也无疾而终。故事从他的出生、到他退休后的死亡，平凡、寡淡、默默无闻、甚至在一切可以失败的地方都失败了。他几乎从来没有反抗过命运，只是默默承受它。没有幻想、没有绝望，只是接受。书名「Stoner」，就是描述了这样一位极为 Stoic 的主人公，William Stoner。
这篇读书笔记对于我来说异常困难，因为作为同样在学术体系底端生活的人、同样的性格、同样的家庭、同样在感情、事业、生活中处处失败的人，同样以 Stoicism 作为潜在指导思想的人，同样的对命运隐忍却不低头的人，我甚至没法分清出哪些内容写的是 Stoner，哪些内容写的是我自己。我只能凭借零星而破碎的记忆写我最触动的片段。有非常多面向没能够、也不太敢提到。这本书像是一生的真实记录，看穿了我这样一类人的终极命运。所以说是说读书笔记，其实只是自述而已。
William Stoner entered the University of Missouri as a freshman in the year 1910, at the age of nineteen. Eight years later, during the height of World War I, he received his Doctor of Philosophy degree and accepted an instructorship at the same University, where he taught until his death in 1956. He did not rise above the rank of assistant professor, and few students remembered him with any sharpness after they had taken his courses. When he died his colleagues made a memorial contribution of a medieval manuscript to the University library. This manuscript may still be found in the Rare Books Collection, bearing the inscription: ‘Presented to the Library of the University of Missouri, in memory of William Stoner, Department of English. By his colleagues.’
An occasional student who comes upon the name may wonder idly who William Stoner was, but he seldom pursues his curiosity beyond a casual questions. Stoner’s colleagues, who held him in no particular esteem when he was alive, speak of him rarely now; to the older ones, his name is a reminder of the end that awaits them all, and to the younger ones it is merely a sound which evokes no sense of the past and no identity with which they can associate themselves or their careers
读过这本书的人或许会记得文章开头的几章，他家里很穷，来大学只是想读农学，以期未来能为家里的农民父母帮上忙。但是在一堂文学课上，他听了 Sloane 老师朗诵的一首 Shakespeare 的诗，于是改变了自己的想法。这种改变并不剧烈、没有戏剧性，但是却如此深刻地体现了所谓命运。这段话我简直想背下来：
Sloane’s eyes came back to William Stoner, and he said dryly, “Mr. Shakespeare speaks to you across three hundred years, Mr. Stoner; do you hear him?”
William Stoner realized that for several moments he had been holding his breath. He expelled it gently, minutely aware of his clothing moving upon his body as his breath went out of his lungs. He looked away from Sloane about the room. Light slanted from the windows and settled upon the faces of his fellow students, so that the illumination seemed to come from within them and go out against a dimness; a student blinked, and a thin shadow fell upon a cheek whose down had caught the sunlight. Stoner became aware that his fingers were unclenching their hard grip on his desk-top. He turned his hands about under his gaze, marveling at their brownness, at the intricate way the nails fit into his blunt finger-ends; he thought he could feel the blood flowing invisibly through the tiny veins and arteries, throbbing delicately and precariously from his fingertips through his body.
Sloane was speaking again. “What does he say to you, Mr. Stoner? What does his sonnet mean?”
Stoner’s eyes lifted slowly and reluctantly. “It means,” he said, and with a small movement raised his hands up toward the air; he felt his eyes glaze over as they sought the figure of Archer Sloane. “It means,” he said again, and could not finish what he had begun to say.
Sloane looked at him curiously. Then he nodded abruptly and said, “Class is dismissed.” Without looking at anyone he turned and walked out of the room.
William Stoner was hardly aware of the students about him who rose grumbling and muttering from their seats and shuffled out of the room. For several minutes after they left he sat unmoving, staring out before him at the narrow planked flooring that had been worn bare of varnish by the restless feet of students he would never see or know. He slid his own feet across the floor, hearing the dry rasp of wood on his soles, and feeling the roughness through the leather. Then he too got up and went slowly out of the room.
The thin chill of the late fall day cut through his clothing. He looked around him, at the bare gnarled branches of the trees that curled and twisted against the pale sky. Students, hurrying across the campus to their classes, brushed against him; he heard the mutter of their voices and the click of their heels upon the stone paths, and saw their faces, flushed by the cold, bent downward against a slight breeze. He looked at them curiously, as if he had not seen them before, and felt very distant from them and very close to them. He held the feeling to him as he hurried to his next class, and held it through the lecture by his professor in soil chemistry, against the droning voice that recited things to be written in notebooks and remembered by a process of drudgery that even now was becoming unfamiliar to him.
在这之后的学期他偷偷地转了专业，没有和家里讲。He had no plans for the future, and he spoke to no one of his uncertainty. 在他借助的亲戚家，在昏暗的阁楼里用木箱子当桌子，自顾自读书，帮亲戚干农活。这就是他的青春岁月。
He felt a renewal of the old passion for study and learning; and with the curious and disembodied vigor of the scholar that is the condition of neither youth nor age, he returned to the only life that had not betrayed him. He discovered that he had not gone far from that life even in his despair.
But William Stoner knew of the world in a way that few of his younger colleagues could understand. Deep in him, beneath his memory, was the knowledge of hardship and hunger and endurance and pain. there was always near his consciousness the blood knowledge of his inheritance, given him by forefathers whose lives were obscure and hard and stoical and whose common ethic was to present to an oppressive world face that were expressionless and hard and bleak.
In his extreme youth Stoner had thought of love as an absolute state of being to which, if one were lucky, one might find access; in his maturity he had decided it was the heaven of a false religion, toward which one ought to gaze with an amused disbelief, a gently familiar contempt, and an embarrassed nostalgia. Now in his middle age he began to know that it was neither a state of grace nor an illusion; he saw it as a human act of becoming, a condition that was invented and modified moment by moment and day by day, by the will and the intelligence and the heart.
还有教书也是，我也说不上自己是喜欢教书还是不喜欢教书，教书很烦的，尤其改作业的时发现自己讲了很多遍但是学生还是没学会的时候，那种挫败感我相信每一位教师都深有体会。但是许多学生又非常可爱，会以他们自己的方式回馈我，或许是写感谢信，或许是给几颗糖果，分享几段生活的趣事，又或许是以认真的听讲、全勤与无可挑剔的作业来作为表示。这里我想引 Stoner 最后的一段话，他六十来岁确诊癌症、身体越来越差时、在为他举办的退休晚宴上、在给他使了一辈子绊的系主任面前、在一众熟或不熟的同事面前，他说了这样一段话：
He was silent for a long time as he looked from face to face. He heard his voice issue flatly. “I have taught…” he said. He began again. “I have taught at this University for nearly forty years. I do not know what I would have done if I had not been a teacher. If I had not taught, I might have-“ He paused, as if distracted. Then he said, with a finality, “I want to thank you all for letting me teach.”
Thank you all for letting me teach. 多么隐忍而深情的告白。我想到了小说前几章讲他是怎么走上教职这条路的：
“But don’t you know, Mr. Stoner?” Sloane asked. “Don’t you understand about yourself yet? You’re going to be a teacher.”
Suddenly Sloane seemed very distant, and the walls of the office receded. Stoner felt himself suspended in the wide air, and he heard his voice ask,
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” Sloane said softly.
“How can you tell? How can you be sure?”
“It’s love, Mr. Stoner,” Sloane said cheerfully. “You are in love. It’s as simple as that.”
It’s love, Mr. Stoner. 命运或许就是这样吧。想起自己写的一篇文章，「志村五郎写给谷山丰的悼念」，那时或许心里也满是这样的苦涩吧。以及下面的这段，可以说是他的（以及我的）人生总结的一段话：
But he was not beyond it, he knew, and would never be. Beneath the numbness, the indifference, the removal, it was there, intense and steady; it had always been there. In his youth he had given it freely, without thought; he had given it to the knowledge that had been revealed to him—how many years ago?—by Archer Sloane; he had given it to Edith, in those first blind foolish days of his courtship and marriage; and he had given it to Katherine, as if it had never been given before. He had, in odd ways, given it to every moment of his life, and had perhaps given it most fully when he was unaware of his giving. It was a passion neither of the mind nor of the flesh; rather, it was a force that comprehended them both, as if they were but the matter of love, its specific substance. To a woman or to a poem, it said simply: Look! I am alive.
这段话真得让我哭了好多次。这么多年来，我终于第一次感到自己被看到、被理解了。我不是那样麻木、隐忍、只会向命运低头的人。尽管我感到自己被自己所希望的、所热爱的一切背叛，我变得冷漠、抽离、只与自己相处、甚至对自己都不坦诚相待，世界分隔成了内外两部分，我如此谨小慎微地生活着。过了这么多年我发现自己仍旧耕耘着这卑微的工作，仿佛有种强迫的力量在促使我不断地工作、不断地阅读，不断地写，哪怕它们从来没有许诺什么结果。在我成百上千页的涂涂划划的草稿纸中，在我个人网站上持续不断的自言自语中，我终于意识到原来自己也在从不间断地诉说这样一句话，我所做的一切无非是想告诉世界我那无处安放的热情、告诉这样一句话：Look, I am alive. 看呀，我活着啊！（写到这的时候又开始哭了，真得好难过啊）。
He heard the distant sound of laughter, and he turned his head toward its source. A group of students had cut across his back-yard lawn; they were hurrying somewhere. He saw them distinctly; there were three couples. The girl were long-limbed and graceful in their light summer dresses, and the boys were looking at them with a joyous and bemused wonder. They walked lightly upon the grass, hardly touching it, leaving no trace of where they had been. He watched them as they went out of his sight, where he could not see; and for a long time after they had vanished the sound of their laughter came to him, far and unknowing in the quiet of the summer afternoon.
What did you expect? he thought again.
A kind of joy came upon him, as if borne in on a summer breeze. He dimly recalled that he had been thinking of failure–as if it mattered. It seemed to him now that such thoughts were mean, unworthy of what his life had been. Dim presences gathered at the edge of his consciousness; he could not see them, but he knew that they were there, fathering their forces toward a kind of palpability he could not see or hear. He was approaching them, he knew; but there was no need to hurry. He could ignore them if he wished; he had all the time there was.
There was a softness around him, and a languor crept upon his limbs. A sense of his own identity came upon him with a sudden force, and he felt the power of it. He was himself, and he knew what he had been.
His head turned. His bedside table was piled with books that he had not touched for a long time. He let his hand play over them for a moment; he marveled at the thinness of the fingers, at the intricate articulation of the joints as he flexed them. He felt the strength within them, and let them pull a book from the jumble on the tabletop. It was his own book that he sought, and when the hand held it he smiled at the familiar red cover that had for a long time been faded and scuffed.
It hardly mattered to him that his book was forgotten and that it served no use; and the question of its worth at any time seemed almost trivial. He did not have the illusion that he would find himself there, in that fading print; and yet, he knew, a small part of him that he could not deny was there, and would be there.
He opened the book; and as he did so it became not his own. He let his fingers riffle through the pages and felt a tingling, as if those pages were alive. The tingling came through his fingers and coursed through his flesh and bone; he was minutely aware of it, and he waited until it contained him, until the old excitement that was like terror fixed him where he lay. The sunlight, passing his window, shone upon the page, and he could not see what was written there.
The fingers loosened, and the book they had held moved slowly and then swiftly across the still body and fell into the silence of the room.
再讲一下他的感情生活吧。一段是他和他妻子 Edith，这段其实非常病态。在读书的前半部分时我时常感觉是在读死人的生活。他的妻子应该是患有很严重的双相，时常一动不动、躺在床上非常消沉，时常又亢奋地邀请许多人来家里，而且不能控制情绪。他和女儿 Grace 的关系本来很好，但是妻子因为这段失败的亲密关系而产生敌意，分开了他和女儿。女儿也和他一样是逆来顺受的隐忍性格，他俩都默认这样的改变是不可逆转的。直到成年后的某天 Grace 草草地找了个人结婚、用的是故意怀孕的方法，离家后就很少回来了。有次她回来后和父亲有过一番对话，从小时候到现在，多少年没有这样的坦诚的对话了？这时候她酗酒已经很严重了：
They talked late into the night, as if they were old friends. And Stoner came to realize that she was, as she had said, almost happy with her despair; she would live her days out quietly, drinking a little more, year by year, numbing herself against the nothingness her life had become. He was glad that she had that, at least; he was grateful that she could drink.
他在这样的情况下也没有想过离婚，没有想过他和 Edith 的关系应该如何改善，也没有想过如何帮助 Edith 治疗她的心理问题（或许一战那个年代也没有成型的心理学认知）。他不会想这样的问题的，哪怕他的生活已经支离破碎，他也只会让步再让步，一声不吭，把一切都当作自然发生且必定发生的事来接受。在四十岁时他已经很苍老，而且也已经几乎丧失了对学术的热情。后来他遇见了新的女友，小他很多的文学系新晋教师 Katherine。像很多小说里俗气地讲到，「第二春」，但是是这样吗？是也不是，小说里写到：
It had not occurred to him how he must appear to an outsider, to the world. For a moment he saw himself as he must thus appear; and what Edith said was part of what he saw. He had a glimpse of a figure that flitted through smoking-room anecdotes, and through the pages of cheap fiction–a pitiable fellow going into his middle age, misunderstood by his wife, seeking to renew his youth, taking up with a girl years younger than himself, awkwardly and apishly reaching for the youth he could not have, a fatuous, garishly got-up clown at whom the world laughed out of discomfort, pity, and contempt. He looked at this figure as closely as he could; but the longer he looked, the less familiar it became. It was not himself that he saw, and he knew suddenly that it was no one.
不过在这样变化中他和 Edith 还有 Grace 的关系也都在改善，他也重新恢复了对工作的热情。对生活的热情与对学术的热情是相互 intensify 的。这样的关系自然遭到反对，而且系主任 Lomax 打算动用权力从中作梗。在这样孤立的情况下 Stoner 依旧是高度被动而内省的。他逐渐把世界分成两个部分：
It was a world of half-light in which they lived and to which they brought the better parts of themselves–so that, after a while, the outer world where people walked and spoke, where there was change and continual movement, seemed to them false and unreal. Their lives were sharply divided between the two worlds, and it seemed to them natural that they should live so divided.
他这样的态度其实就是他对生活的态度。尽管已经经受过了非常多的失败，但是自己也有一些幸福生活的佐料的，不是吗？虽说只有一点点，但只要一点点就可以。What else did you expect?
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.
我最近也在思考问题出在哪里。我自身的感情生活也出现了问题，或者说读这些之前就隐隐预见了一些事情。我发现自己在感情上也是如此 Stoic，如我对待工作、对待生活一般。之前去湖边走了走，感叹真好啊，就只是看着云、看着湖和松树，天地悠悠，一切如旧，美、单调、安宁，而人的一切是多么的不重要。我这样的人大概真得只属于这里吧。平日里只会被动地接纳命运，在隐忍与克制中获得对人生的感悟，而在这里、远离自身、远离命运时又是多么放松。Stoner 和 Katherine 分开时他讲了这样的话：
‘Because in the long run’ Stoner said, ‘it isn’t Edith or even Grace, or the certainty of losing Grace, that keeps me here; it isn’t the scandal or the hurt to you or me; it isn’t the hardship we would have to go through, or even the loss of love we might have to face. It’s simply the destruction of ourselves, of what we would do’.
另外书中占有很大篇幅的主题是他的生活与当时的世界大战，没有精力再细写了。战争有点像是背景音。他并没有对 Stoner 造成什么看的见的直接影响，但是那种不确定性与衰退感却无孔不入，甚至与他的性格是互为象征的。他最好的朋友之一，Dave，也在战争中牺牲。他们在作为青年教师时有过一场长谈，就以 Dave 那时对 Stoner 的评价作为正文的结尾吧，这段话仿佛就像是他（以及我们）与世界关系的谶言一般。
Who are you? A simple son of the soil, as you pretend to yourself? Oh, no. You, too, are among the infirm—you are the dreamer, the madman in a madder world, our own midwestern Don Quixote without his Sancho, gamboling under the blue sky… But you have the taint, the old infirmity. You think there’s something here, something to find. Well, in the world you’d learn soon enough. You, too, are cut out for failure; not that you’d fight the world. You’d let it chew you up and spit you out, and you’d lie there wondering what was wrong. Because you’d always expect the world to be something it had no wish to be. The weevil in the cotton, the worm in the beanstalk, the borer in the corn. You couldn’t face them, and you couldn’t fight them; because you’re too weak, and you’re too strong. And you have no place to go in the world.
And you have no place to go in the world.