It’s Alive! It’s Alive! (excerpt)
By: Steven King
The Great American Novel is livelier than ever; and here are three that prove it; just pick the one(s) that fit your hammock.
The Stones of Summer, Dow Mossman (Barnes & Noble, $19.95): If 20th-century America produced a book of Moby Dick stature, it's probably this one... but don't let that stop you, or even slow you down. All I mean is that like Melville's fish story, this is one whale of a tale that has somehow found an audience in spite of mind-boggling hurgles, including going out of print (Bobbs-Merrill quit doing fiction not long after it published The Stones of Summer in 1972) and only a smattering of reviews. Nor was the author exactly up to a PR tour; when his only book was published, Mossman was still recovering from a nervous breakdown he suffered after finishing his 10-year labor of love/hate.
The novel is difficult to get into - the first 30 pages read like an extended set of Bob Dylan liner notes from 1965. But then pure narration takes over, and readers are treated to a magical mystery tour of adolescent life in America's heartland during the '60s. Because Mossman is a poet as well as a crack storyteller, the result is both lyrical and gripping: Think Jim Morrison crossed with J.D. Salinger. Oh, and sometimes it's fall-on-the-floor funny, too.
Once you've read the book - which takes some doing - treat yourself to Mark Moskowitz's documentary Stone Reader, which played a pivotal role in bringing this forgotten book back into the cultural mainstream. Reader (available on DVD) chronicles Moskowitz's search for Mossman, who dropped from view 30 years ago. It's also a love sonnet to books and reading.