Hold on to your hats! I’m actually reviewing a documentary!!! I know!!! Finally!!! It’s amazeballs!!!
OK, now that I have that out of my system… Stone Reader is a 2002 documentary by Mark Moskowitz and it was difficult for me to nail down exactly what my feelings were about it at first. Based on topic, I found it interesting, endearing and thought provoking. Yet, on the movie making/editing side it wasn’t quite as cohesive as it could have been, which I found mildly irritating. In the end I think subject material wins over form, so I did like it, but with a bit tighter focus and a tad more editing it could have perhaps been a wee bit mind blowing (and one should only blow a small bit of your mind at a time, folks. You’ve seen the eggs in the pan drugs talk right? Yeah, it could have been just a little like that… but, you know, wholesome and stuff). Although, with that kind of editing, it would probably end up making a fantastic feature film if someone did choose to remake it.
The Stone Reader is a kind of stalker love story documentary, which I mean in the best way possible. Mark Moskowitz bought The Stones of Summer by Dow Mossman in the early 70’s and didn’t like it, but then tried it again over two decades later and loved it to the point of becoming a fanboy, possibly before the term really had made it to it’s current status in popular vernacular (or at least when the Big Bang Theory made the ideas of such geekery mainstream and cool…or, well, at least they did in my head, but phew…there’s some odd stuff running around in here…so…yeah, takeaway point is fanboy=cool…). So, like anyone excited about finding something special, he went in search of more from the author. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any, and it seemed that Mossman had mysteriously disappeared from the face of the earth.
Unable to leave this stone unturned (ha ha), for a novel now decades out of print and published by a company now long out of business, Mark sets out on a journey to find out what happened to the man who wrote the book by interviewing everyone and anyone he could find who might have something to say about it. Starting with the man who reviewed it for the New Yorker back in the 70’s, he piecemeals through the information available to discover each new interviewee, talking to everyone across the country from teachers, classmates, other authors, editors, book jacket designers, agents and more, slowly working his way closer to the truth.
Let’s get the less desirable stuff out of the way first and rip the bandaid off this part of the review: I didn’t like that there was a lot of meandering in the movie. It went into detail about the directors life and history (perhaps a wee bit too much) and had a kind of rogue camera feel to it, which was sometimes delightful and sometimes more seat-of-the-pants, or amateurish, then focused on the purpose at hand. A lot of this probably came from the natural progression of things, which was very organic. It focused a lot more on the discoveries being made in the moment on camera, which kind of gave it a bit of a home movie feel. That’s not really a bad thing, but it is starkly in contrast to the more polished documentaries out today…Well, ok, some of them. It was shot almost fifteen years ago though, so I can forgive this, but to be fair to the review I have to give it a mention.
Also, being shot before 2002, it is now somewhat dated (microfilm in a library was used at one point, and actually helped yield some results, I poop you not). Since it came out about two years shy of Facebook being launched (and then the plethora of other social networking sites that followed) this kind of dropping off the face of the earth that occurred at that time (and before) is much less likely to happen now. This is part of what makes it so endearing though, because without all these at-your-fingertip advancements that we have today, the pursuit requires all the more dedication and perseverance to make headway, and Mark tackles this with a tenacity that is admirable.
So, if you can get past all that, you are in for some really great interactions and discussions about various other books, writers, insights into the publishing industry and it’s history, and what lengths people will go to for the love of a great story.
“I can remember the books I read then, but nothing of who I was.”
– Mark Moskowitz
At one point when talking about his history Mark mentions that he can remember what he was reading, but not who he was at the time, and I found that idea really interesting. I think it’s true that we become a bit of, or are molded by, what we choose to consume, and these works that impact us become a part of who we are. When you think of yourself in the past, how do you pinpoint who you were at a certain time? Was there a pre-something-fantastic-that-I-read version of you, or do you mark your development simply by what happened to you or what you did?
The movie also talks about the magic of reading, and how the things we read can so deeply affect us because they have the power to awaken things in us. Somehow, irregardless of space and time, we can use literature and art to share in the thoughts and emotions of others, who we may never meet, and yet somehow in them find kindred spirits. It’s kind of bittersweet in a way, how you may spend hours and days with a favorite authors words and be bursting with a feeling of camaraderie that only can go one way. The movie is peppered with a lot of these little literary ideas, which is part of what makes it so interesting.
Another thing it mentions, is how often many authors had one hit and then nothing. One great work and then burnt out, died, or went on, or back, to other things. It makes one wonder if modern day blogs and other social networking sites might hold the antidote to this sometime tragedy, and perhaps, if these authors had found themselves in a supportive blog land community, where one can reach out and say something back (without being creepy…well, you know, hopefully…) maybe it may have inspired them to find that sense of kinship with their fans and from that the inspiration to continue on. To maybe save them, and the world, from being cheated of other possible masterpieces by muses that turned sour and become dark whispers of deceit, tricking them into thinking they have nothing more to say and that no one cares. I wonder if perhaps that sense of kinship and belonging going both ways may just mean something…Or maybe I’m just blathering nonsense, blogs and social media probably won’t save the world (…or can they?).
“You feel the pressure of another human soul on the other side of the book…you feel that you are the brother of the author…it’s almost spiritual.”
– Frank Conroy
So, really, if you are a writer, or a voracious reader who wants to hear people from the writing world discussing the writing world, then this might just be the film for you. Here’s the trailer, so now it’s up to you. 🙂 :
And if you have any thoughts about this, let me have ’em…
And for this weeks challenge update:
- Blog post 10/52 – check
- Writing in the screenplay – check – word count up another 2297
- Drawing – check!
- Feet writing & drawing – check.
Oh cool! I’ll have to look out for this… It sounds like a great story, and I’d revel in the nostalgia of watching someone doing pre-internet research! And it’s amazing the impact books make on us… A few years back, I picked up a reissue of an old kids’ book, and a couple of pages in I recognised it as one of the first books I ever read! I hadn’t seen it in more than 20 years, but it all came flooding back!
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Technically, there was still internet research in the form of e-mail and yahoo searches (which was actually the bigger engine at the time, since it started in ’94 and google didn’t come out until ’98, so was still relatively new then) but since it was so long ago it’s kind of a crazy back-when-the- internet-was-young time, and there wasn’t any direct hits like there likely would be on the majority of things today, particularly with social media being what it is. So, it was very cool to see this early search stuff combined with the use of all the old resources, particularly when the old resources were the ones that led to results. I think a longhand letters were also used! So fab! 🙂
That is super cool about the old book find! Its kind of amazing how you can get transported back when you re-experience old stories! I have extremely fond memories of some childhood books which I’d love to get my hands on if they were still in print or hiding in old bookstores somewhere. Of course, most of the ones I remember involved animals and spooky things. I think they may have molded me into a literary adrenaline junkie at a young age… 🙂