John Williams is a professor of English at the University of Denver and this novel which is about a professor of English at the University of Missouri has no doubt some, if not considerable, basis in his own experience even though it subdues it more than, say, R. V. Cassill or Carlos Baker. Actually Mr. Williams' novel is altogether subdued and in keeping with the character he has created with care, conscience and consistency, perhaps at the expense of the readers he might hope to attract. William Stoner is a shy, awkward, reserved young man to begin with when he comes off the farm and his primary experiences are unlikely to make him more assured and expansive. He marries the prohibitively prim Edith who, in the one period when she is not sexually inviolable, manages to have a child, Grace. But she will attempt to keep Grace at some distance from her father. Stoner, midway in his career, has a real crisis of principle with the new chairman of the English Department who will pillory him from then on. He has only one rewarding personal experience, an affair with a graduate student, forcibly curtailed because of campus gossip. And he retreats further to teach, with an almost anonymous, dogged dedication until his death--cancer....His story is told in monochomatic shades of grey and it is to Mr. Williams' credit that he achieves for Stoner the sympathy he deserves. More, perhaps not.