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In 1972, eighteen-year-old Mark Moskowitz reads a book review in the New York Times for a novel called The Stones of Summer. The review hails the novel as one which "would define a generation." Moskowitz purchases the book, can't get into it, puts it down and forgets about it. Sometime in the late 1990's, Moskowitz, rediscovers the book. He reads it from cover to cover and believes it to be a masterpiece. He scours the internet for additional novels by the author, Dale Mossman and finds nothing. The book itself seems to have vanished. It is out of print, no one has heard of it, and only a handful of copies are available for purchase on the web.
Moskowitz, a successful producer of television spots for political campaigns, embarks on a quest to find the book's author Dow Mossman. He wants to find out why Mossman never wrote another novel. Moskowitz decides document his search on film because, "If you're making a movie, people will talk to you" (as opposed to just thinking you are an obsessed nut and hanging up the phone).
He begins his search by locating anyone and everyone who was associated with the creation of Stones of Summer. He begins with literary critic Leslie Fiedler. Though not a logical first step in finding the author (there are many of these Godot-esque moments) this initial interview brings up the sub-plot question, "Why do authors write one amazing book and then stop?" Moskowitz will go on to interview everyone from the New York Times writer who wrote the review that started it all to the man who did the book's cover illustration.
At one point, the audience is aware that Moskowitz finally has a hot lead on where to find Mossman, but he stalls the payoff with still more interviews. The mission to find the author Mossman is really secondary to Moskowitz sharing his love of books with the audience and the people he interviews. This is great for those of us who spent more than a few summer days at the library, or had a crush on their English professor; but it will likely be tedious to non-bookish types.
There's a little of Woody Allen in Moskowitz, though it is more in demeanor than in filmmaking skill. Still, he's not bad for an amateur. In one scene, Moskowitz combines a voice-over of his first adventure to a bookstore over images of his son wandering through an amusement park. The scene goes on a little too long, but the honest well-meaning intention of the filmmaker makes it charming rather than contrived.
Stone Reader will never join the ranks of the best documentaries ever made, but it is one that will likely be well-loved and remembered by an audience who will recognize Mossman as one of their own. So to all you aspiring writers and fellow readers: see this movie and don't forget to toss a pen and pad into your N.P.R. tote-bag! Not only is the film loaded with some excellent quotes from the likes of Hemingway and Nobokov, but there is some great commentary on the art of writing and books that matter. Consider seeing a matinee show as you'll want to go to the bookstore right after the movie: not so much to pick up Stones of Summer, but to make friends with forgotten classics.