September 2nd, 2007

Asta

Reader's Quest

Some time ago, I can't remember exactly how long, I read a wonderful review of a film about some guy who read this book once and wasn't able to find it again and then went on a quest to find others who had read and remembered it and find out what happened to its author, who never wrote another book. Oddly echoing the events in the movie, I have, until now, been unable to remember the title of the movie, or find anyone who knew anything about it.

I was browsing my local video store, looking for a "weekly rental" to make up my 2-for-1 Monday rental, and lo and behold, there it was. The film is "Stone Reader," and it's just as wonderful as that review led me to believe. It's a quest, a detective story, a testament to persistence and mild obsession (well... maybe not so mild), but ultimately it's a meditation on writing and reading. It has so much to offer about the miraculous and mysterious process of becoming immersed in a book that I would recommend it to anyone who loves books and reading.

Mark Moskowitz is a filmmaker - a political ad maker in "real" life - who remembered reading, at the age of 18, a book called The Stones of Summer by Dow Mossman. He had read a glowing review of it in the New York Times. He bounced off it, but tried again a few years later, when he thought it brilliant and life-changing. When he looked for other works by the same author, he discovered that the book itself was out of print, the author had never written anything else, and noone seemed to have heard of him or the book. So he sets out to find out more, in the process visiting many other authors, teachers, and literary agents and has many conversations about writing, reading and the art of the novel. To say more would spoil what is a strangely suspenseful story. The process of detection and the complex road Moskowitz follows on his search add up to a fascinating and ultimately quite moving film.

Only one thing: if you were to judge the American literary scene from the last half century or more on the basis of what you see and hear about in this movie, you would think it populated with almost no exception by men. All the literary people interviewed are men; only two - no three - women writers are mentioned: Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell and Emily Bronte. This is not really a criticism, just an observation, but - just saying.