Review: Stone Reader (2002)

Stone ReaderStone Reader (2002)
129 min, Dir. Mark Moskowitz
Buy it at Amazon (used), (3 disc special edition) / Watch it at Netflix

Summary from Netflix:

Eighteen-year-old Mark buys a novel by a little-known author and starts reading it, but is unable to get through the whole thing. Twenty-five years later, Mark decides to give the book another try and finds the story absolutely spellbinding. When he tries to buy more copies of the book, he finds that it’s out of print and no one seems to know where the author can be found, sending Mark on a yearlong search for the elusive writer.

I’m a big fan of documentaries, especially documentaries about weird things, like bingo or crosswords or spelling bees. Documentaries about books and authors, if done well, can be just as interesting as a documentaries about people who dress up as superheroes, and this one is quite good.

Though I never heard of Mark Moskowitz before, I could empathize with his desire to find out more about a book and author that no-one else seems to have read or heard of. I’ve run into that problem myself a few times, but I never thought to actually track the author down and see what happened to them. You’ve gotta admire that kind of determinedness, and of course it makes for a good film.

It’s not a straight-forward documentary. It encompasses a few years Mr. Moskowitz spent finding out all he could about Dow Mossman and his book, The Stones of Summer, and it frequently dips off into other bits of things, like other one-hit wonders, Mr. Moskowitz’s forays into literature when he was a kid, etc. This makes the movie longer, but I think it makes it richer, too. And since I’m a big ol’ bookish person myself, I love hearing about which books turned people into bookworms for life. (For Mr. Moskowitz it was Catch-22; for me I think it was the Little House on the Prairie books.)

My favorite part was when Mr. Moskowitz finally tracked someone down who not only remembered Dow Mossman but also had read his book! I threw my hands up in victory, I was so excited. And then he finds Dow Mossman himself, who laughed at the thought of his book being republished. Little did he know, eh?

Stone Reader is a film about a book that fell into obscurity, but was nevertheless loved by at least, uh, five people. It’s a film about the power books have on people’s lives, for better or worse (Mr. Mossman had a nervous breakdown while writing Stones of Summer and had to be hospitalize!), and it’s a film about how obsessive bookworms can be when they latch onto something wonderful.

I suppose Stone Reader is successful in that Mr. Moskowitz got to find out about what happened to Dow Mossman, got Mr. Mossman’s book republished, and now got me wanting to read it. It sounds wonderful (comparable to Faulkner and Joyce, apparently), and I look forward to reading it.

What documentary inspired you recently?

Read more: A lost novel rediscovered: Mossman’s ‘Stones of Summer’ has triumphant return to print | The Stones of Summer Rolls Back | Book review at Culture Vulture

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