Stars: *** 1/2
Rating: Unrated, but acceptable for all ages
Run Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes
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.