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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Stone Reader

MOVIE REVIEWS

STONE READER (2003)

Starring Mark Moskowitz, John Seeley, William Cotter Murray, Carl Brandt, Frank Conroy, Bruce Dobler, Robert C.S. Downs, Robert Ellis, Leslie Fielder, Dan Guenther, Ed Gorman, Robert Gottlieb, John Kashiwabara and Dow Mossman.

Screenplay by Mark Moskowitz.

Directed by Mark Moskowitz.

Distributed by JET Films.  127  minutes.  Not Rated.

 Everyday Beautiful

Stone Reader

There is no rhyme or reason why certain pieces of popular culture continue to resonate years later, while others fade away, as if they were never there.  One of the most fascinating questions in the world is simply this, “what happens to an artist years after their brief moment in the sun?”  The documentary Stone Reader is an exploration of this conundrum, and also a moving love letter to reading and literature. 

Mark Moskowitz works in his day job making political commercials from his office in the Philadelphia area, but his true love is books.  He’s one of those people who would feel naked without at least one novel by his side.  Luckily for the rest of us, he has the access to cameras to work out his obsession on film.  This obsession comes to fruition specifically when an old book fascinates him. 

When he was still in high school, Moskowitz had bought The Stones of Summer, the 1972 debut novel by a writer named Dow Mossman.  He had read a review of the book in the New York Times Book Review when the book was released, but he was unable to get through the first chapter at the time.  Thirty years later, he picked it up again and was entranced.  Moskowitz decided that he wanted to read everything that Mossman had written, but was surprised to be unable to find anything else.  In fact, it turned out it was almost impossible to even find a copy of The Stones of Summer

Dow Mossman becomes Moskowitz’s Holy Grail.  He must find out what happened to this great author and why he never published again.  He follows a long dead trail in tracking him, speaking with authors, professors, the writer who reviewed the novel for the Times, even Mossman’s former agent.  No one knows what became of Mossman; in fact surprisingly few of them even remember the man at all. 

The trip, full of stops and starts and dead ends, is nonetheless fascinating… intelligent people discussing literature, writing and the changing politics of publishing.  (One minor quibble with the film, you would think the person who finally led Moskowitz to Mossman would have been his first stop… but then again hindsight is 20/20.)  Still, Moskowitz is a charming, funny tour guide and the advice of experts he contacts (including, I was surprised to see, my old college fiction professor) are well constructed and thought out.  They discuss the frequency of authors burning out after just one novel – citing Ralph Ellison, Margaret Mitchell, Harper Lee and the like.  The film also explores the disappearing status of the book in a fast-paced Internet savvy world.  (Yes, I do recognize the irony that I’m reviewing it for a web magazine.) 

By the time that Moskowitz finds out what happened to Mossman, a loving tribute to the sheer majesty and pain of writing closes out on a thoughtful and essentially positive tip.  I won’t spoil what happened to Mossman, that is a large part of the fun of Stone Reader.  Even more important than the individual author or book, though, is what Moskowitz’ film has to say about the necessity of great literature to make the world bearable.  (4/03)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2003  PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved. Posted: April 23, 2003.

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Copyright ©2003  PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved. Posted: April 23, 2003.

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