Charles J. Shields on The Man Who Wrote the Perfect Novel

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It’s a busy week this week at Skylark! Tomorrow night we welcome Joanna Luloff to the store, and the following evening, we’re very excited to present acclaimed literary biographer Charles J. Shields who will be presenting his new book, THE MAN WHO WROTE THE PERFECT NOVEL: JOHN WILLIAMS, STONER, AND THE WRITING LIFE.

You may have heard of STONER, the “perfect novel” of the book’s title. Originally published in 1965, it’s recently become a publishing phenomenon, selling millions of copies and being celebrated and praised by a host of writers and critics, including Colum McCann, Julian Barnes, Bret Easton Ellis, Ian McEwan, Emma Straub, and Ruth Rendell.

And, oh yes, the book is set in Columbia, Missouri.

Charles Shields’s elegant biography (which was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the fall's "Most Anticipated" titles) traces the life of STONER’s author, John Williams, which in many ways paralleled that of his most famous character, from their shared working-class backgrounds to their undistinguished careers in the halls of academia. Shields masterfully recounts Williams’s development as an author, whose other works include the novels BUTCHER’S CROSSING and AUGUSTUS (for the latter, Williams shared the 1972 National Book Award).

CHARLES J. SHIELDS is the author of MOCKINGBIRD: A PORTRAIT OF HARPER LEE, a New York Times bestseller, a Literary Guild Selection, and a Book-of-the-Month Club Alternate. His young adult biography of Harper Lee, I AM SCOUT, was chosen an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, and a Junior Literary Guild Selection. In 2011, Shields published AND SO IT GOES: KURT VONNEGUT, A LIFE, a New York Times and Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of the Year.

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