When I first saw Mark Moskowitz’s Stone Reader two years ago, I refused to write a review. Though I didn’t like the film itself, I admired the humanitarian mission at its center, and as such figured a bad review would deter people from discovering Dow Mossman’s novel The Stones of Summer. Moskowitz couldn’t finish Mossman’s work the first time he opened it in 1972. Many years later, he fell in love with the book and was shocked to discover that Mossman and his novel had disappeared off the face of the earth. Then begins the journey of (self-) discovery that takes Moskowitz all over the country. In meeting critics, editors and agents, the writer-director looks to expose how a critical and popular community could let a book like Stones of Summer fall through the cracks. Critic Mike D’Angelo accurately points out in his review of the film that it’s impossible not to warm up to the film if you’re a literature buff, but takes Moskowitz to task for a series of aesthetic fabrications. There’s plenty of them, namely the shot of Moskowitz’s friend strolling to the mailbox to receive a copy of Stones of Summer the director mailed him. D’Angelo humorously points out: “In fact, I’m not even 100% sure that Mossman’s novel exists.” Because the obfuscations aren’t theoretically relevant, they’re merely a means for the director to elongate his own genteel narrative. The documentary is powerful enough that I logged on to eBay directly after the media screening to look for Stones of Summer; not surprisingly, I couldn’t find it, but that may have had less to do with the fact that the book was very rare at the time of the film’s release than it did with an insatiable Moskowitz’s need to own every copy in existence. In the end, I’m less bothered by the man’s aesthetic put-ons than I am by a certain egocentric desire to position himself as a messiah for the literary community. Indeed, Stone Reader is a humanitarian effort, but Moskowitz’s preening and cloying voiceover can wear on the nerves. Loved the discovery, but hated the man’s forcing of himself on the project.
- New Yorker Films
- 128 min
- Mark Moskowitz
- Mark Moskowitz
- Carl Brandt, Frank Conroy, Bruce Dobler, Robert C.S. Downs, Robert Ellis, Leslie Fiedler, Ed Gorman, Robert Gottlieb, John Kashiwabara, Norman Mailer, John Seelye, Mark Moskowiz, Dow Mossman
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