I just learned from an entry in Heidi’s blog that at 7:30 tonight the Tivoli Theatre will show The Stone Reader, a film by Mark Moskowitz in which he tries to track down Dow Mossman, who published a critically praised first novel in 1972 and then all but disappeared. KC’s alternative newsweekly, The Pitch, recently published an article about the film. And there was (is?) an oh-so-brief exchange regarding the film on the SHARP-L list. The director will be at the Westport Coffeehouse for a discussion starting at 6:15.
Update, 11:00 p.m.: I got home from the film a little while ago, which I enjoyed it very much, and L and I discussed it at some length, leading to the following thoughts. The director was at the screening and answered questions for about twenty minutes afterwards. It’s certainly a movie for people who like to read, and for people who like documentaries. That said, however, there isn’t really much discussion in the film about what it is that’s in books that make them so compelling, as L pointed out. I don’t even really know what Mossman’s novel is about or much about his prose style. There are a few places towards the end where Mossman talks a bit about Shakespeare, but not too many long conversations about what makes Faulkner, or Heller, or Vonnegut, or Dreiser, or any of the other white male authors that the filmmaker admires, so admirable. Okay, so as this last sentence implies, I did leave the theater wondering, along with Robin Bledsoe, where all the women were. One man talks about the importance of his mother’s influence on his learning to read, and Harper Lee and Flannery O’Connor come up, but I kid you not when I say that not one woman is featured speaking in this movie. In a way, this fits the film’s valorization of the masculine literary culture of late ’60s and early ’70s America. I mean, that culture is an example of why feminist literary criticism developed in the first place, right?
In the Q&A Moskowitz said that the film started as a documentary on the creative process, what fuels it and what might bring it to a halt, and the Mossman story was only going to be one part of it. But he couldn’t find Mossman, so that part just kept growing and growing. Still, the finished product focuses a great deal on the other side of the creative process: those who receive what the artist creates. There’s a great deal about learning to love to read, and the experience of reading. Some very eloquent things are said by a variety of people. At one point, Mossman says to him “You’re way beyond the ideal reader. You’re, I don’t know, you’re something else” and it’s a great moment.
Yes, I did like the film, even as I point to what might be called omissions or blind spots. The novel at the heart of the movie, The Stones of Summer, is being re-published by Barnes & Noble this fall, but you can pre-order it now, if you are so inclined.