Romancing the ‘Stone’
Filmmaker’s love of book sparks quest for its Eastern Iowa author
By: John Kenyon
CEDAR RAPIDS -- When someone falls in love with a book, the natural impulse is to seek out others by that same author.
Finding none, most people would move on. Not Mark Moskowitz. After reading "The Stones of Summer" by Cedar Rapids native Dow Mossman, he sought more of Mossman's work. Perplexed to find nothing beyond that 1972 debut, he decided to find out why.
The result is a fascinating film, one that fuels the imagination and will send viewers to their bookshelves in search of the comfort to be found in those favorite books. Remarkable as it may sound, Moskowitz has made a riveting two-hour film from the simple subject of people talking about books.
But C-SPAN this is not. Moskowitz, thanks to Mossman's obscurity after the book's publication, has been given a mystery of sorts, and as the film unfolds, the pieces fall into place.
Moskowitz, a Pennsylvania political advertisement producer by day, uses his spare time to chip away at the puzzle, interviewing anyone he can find who might know about Mossman or his whereabouts. Along the way, the film takes on an added layer, the conversations being as much about the love of books and good writing as they are about Mossman.
An amazing array of people appear, from John Seelye, who wrote a glowing review of Mossman's book in the New York Times in 1972, to book editor Robert Gottlieb who worked with Joseph Heller on "Catch-22," and Carl Brandt, Mossman's one-time agent.
As he gets closer to his goal, Moskowitz brings his cameras to Eastern Iowa.
The University of Iowa and Cedar Rapids get plenty of screen time as the filmmaker interviews people like UI Writer's Workshop Director Frank Conroy and former Workshop instructor William Cotter Murray.
Eventually, Moskowitz brings his cameras directly to Mossman, found in the Cedar Rapids home where he grew up.
The obvious impulse after seeing the film is to seek out "The Stones of Summer" and read it. But, for many reasons -- the impenetrable nature of the admittedly dazzling prose chief among them -- that would be the wrong message.
The real intended effect of the film is to make the viewer think about favorite books the way Moskowitz thinks about "The Stones of Summer." One need not stalk the author to do so, of course, but to simply think about, cherish and share the books is enough.