A review of “Stone Reader” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: Unrated, but acceptable for all ages

Run Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes

 

 

Reading is one of life’s great pleasures; a real reader recognizes the supreme satisfaction of allowing a book to get under his or her skin. Such is the case of director Mark Moskowitz, who has been swept away by the first novel of Dow Mossman, “The Stones of Summer”.

Moskowitz first bought “Summer” as an 18-year old in 1972, when an enthusiastic New York Times book review hailed it as the defining novel of a generation.  But he couldn’t get past the first twenty pages.  Twenty-five years and hundreds of novels later, the exceedingly well-read Moskowitz picked up “Summer” again and couldn’t put it down.  Determined to spread the word to family and friends, Moskowitz did what any self-respecting good reader would do --- he logged on to Amazon.com to order extra copies and to search for Mossman’s other novels.  And found: zip, zilch, nada.

Book out of print, no record of the author, and no follow-up novels.  Moskowitz couldn’t even find another human being who had read the darn thing.  That seed of frustration leads to a literary odyssey, as Moskowitz begins a year-long search for the elusive Dow Mossman and the answers to a myriad of questions.

Quest quickly turns to obsession. Moskowitz crisscrosses the country, logging thousands of miles and picking scores of erudite brains on subjects ranging from one-hit wonders (Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”, etc.) to novelists’ fragile psyches and books that create lifelong bonds among their readers.

Readers and non-readers alike will thrill to the spare elegance of this stirring documentary.  As the search for the mystery man continues (and Moskowitz’s burgeoning frustration ebbs and flows), a lengthy list of must-reads develops.  Books of decades past that may have been overlooked.  Unheard-of tomes that have had a profound effect on the characters’ lives. Editors, authors and agents alike weigh in the mini-melodramas behind reading and publishing, as the undeniably poignant “narrative” gently shifts to an affecting climax.