Thursday, July 08, 2004

Getting Stoned

Tingle Alley has discovered the documentary Stone Reader and has fallen in love. I completely understand. I loved the movie so much, I bought the four disk special edition (I don't know if it's still available.)
The movie, in short, is about a guy who reads a terrific book, The Stones of Summer, and finds that the author hasn't written anything since. The documentarian goes out in search of the writer and along the way discusses books and writing with everyone he meets.
Some people have complained about the research and some scenes that were obviously set up. But, as CAAF points out, that sort of misses the point. The movie is not really about the search for this missing author, it's about the love of reading. It's a chance for Mark Moskowitz (the documentarian) to talk with people like editor Robert Gottlieb and critic Leslie Fielder as well as little known authors who talk about the pains of writing.
CAAF actually wrote to Moskowitz and asked him about The Lost Book Club, which plans to find more books that are out of print or need some attention.
Rake's Progress also discusses the movies and quotes from Roger Ebert's review.
Then there's the book list. During the film, many, many books are mentioned and thanks to somebody named "dedicated transcriber" we have nearly all of them. Transcriber put the list together on the Stone Reader discussion board, but I'll do the service of printing it here:

William Wordsworth, Tintern Abbey
James Joyce, Poems
John Seelye, The Kid & Beautiful Machine
Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat
Lord Byron, Collected Works
Howard Mosher, Northern Borders (coming of age story set in Vermont)
John Frederick, The Darkened Sky
Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook (& introduction to the 1972 10th anniversary edition)
R.A. Lafferty, Fourth Mansions (SF)
Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading
John Barth, The Floating Opera (Leslie Fiedler’s favorite modern American 1st novel)
William Kotzwinkle, The Fan Man
Crocket Johnson, Harold and the Purple Crayon
Ben Hogan’s Power Golf
Claire Bee’s Chip Hilton series
Dan Guenther, China Wind
John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces
Ross Lockridge, Raintree County
Thomas Hegan, Mr. Roberts
Siri Hustvedt, The Blindfold
William Manchester, The Last Lion
Ferol Egan, Fremont
A. Yehoshua, Five Seasons
Janet Hobhouse, The Furies
Christopher Isherwood, Berlin Stories
Peter Taylor, A Summons to Memphis
Virginia Woolf, A Voyage Out
James Lord, Picasso and Dora
Franklin W. Dixon’s Hardy Boys books
Colin Wilson
Mark Twain Puddinhead Wilson, Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Madeline L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
Ernest Hemingway, Old Man and the Sea
Henry Roth, Call It Sleep
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
Edgar Allen Poe
James T. Farrell, Studs Lonigan
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants
Harry Mulisch, The Assault
Emily Bronte
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched by Fire (nonfiction book on artistic temperament)
William Cotter Murray, Michael Joe
John Legget, Ross and Tom
Tony Tanner, City of Words
Frank Conroy, Stop-time, Body and Soul, Midair
Alfred Kazin, On Native Grounds
Leslie Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel, The Stranger in Shakespeare, Waiting for the End
Tony Tanner, City of Words
Alfred Kazin, On Native Grounds
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night
Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle, Mother Night
Wright Morris, The Territory Ahead, My Uncle Dudley
John A. Williams, The Man Who Cried I Am
Cynthia Ozick, Myth and Metaphor
Philip Roth, Goodbye Columbus
Stephen King, Carrie
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
Lewis Mumford
Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Richard Yates
Robert Coover
William Thackeray, Vanity Fair
Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio
Mario Puzo
William Gaddis, The Recognitions
Connie Willis, Lincoln's Dreams, The Doomsday Book
Joseph McElroy, Ancient Paraphase
Marcus Goodrich, Delilah
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
F.O. Mathiessen, American Renaissance
John Seelye, The True Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jealousy
Alberto Moravia
Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting & Testaments Betrayed
Joseph Skvorecky, The Engineer of Human Souls
Knut Hamsun
John LeCarre
James Ellroy
Anne Rice
Anne Tyler
Thomas Pynchon, V.
Maura Stanton, Molly Companion
Laura Cunningham, Sleeping Arrangements
Franz Lidz, Unstrung Heroes
Alan Furst
Raymond Chandler
Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories
James Jones, The Thin Red Line, The Merry Month of May
Norman Mailer, The Naked and the Dead
Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Something Happened, Good as Gold
Chaim Potok, The Chosen
Thomas Pynchon, V.
Robert C.S. Downs, The Fifth Season
Bruce Dobler
Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday
Gail Godwin
John Irving
John Casey
Jane Barnes Casey
Andre Dubus
Tom McHale
Jonathan Penner
Jose Donoso
Nelson Algren
Terry Southern, Red Dirt Marijuana
Vladimir Nabokov
John Dos Passos
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Frank Conroy, Stop-time, Midair, Body and Soul
William Faulkner, Soldier’s Pay, Sartoris
Vance Bourjaily
Emily Dickinson
D.H. Lawrence, Apocalypse
Willa Cather
Ed Gorman, Harlequin
James Webb, Fields of Fire
Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano
Dan Simmons, Hyperion tetraology
Casanova, History of My Life
James Joyce, Dubliners
The Complete James Fennimore Cooper
Flannery O'Connor
The Bible
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Mark Twain, Autobiography
Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
Gibbon, Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire
Geoffrey Chaucer
Frederick Exley, A Fan’s Notes
Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie
Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Islands in the Stream (my favorite EH)
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Thomas Wolfe
William Wharton, Dad
John Marquand, Point of No Return (great lost book of the 40s)
Hamilton Basso, The View from Pompey’s Head
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter (all)
Bernard Malamud, Dubin’s Lives
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Devils

Sidenote: I can't tell you how happy I am to see R.A. Lafferty on that list. He's a great fantasy/science fiction writer who should be better known. Other writers have often sung his praises. I haven't read Fourth Mansions. I would recommend his short story collections, like Nine Hundred Grandmothers.

Obviously, those aren't all lost books. But they are all discussed in the movie.
If you do enjoy the movie, definitely try to get your hands on the multiple disc version DVD. Some of the extras are great and aren't directly related to the film. For instance, there's an old episode of Firing Line that features an interview with Leslie Fielder. After watching him in the film (where he's old and craggy), it's a revelation to see him young and inspired. Kind of funny how he refers to things like comic books and science fiction as "pornography" though (and he's in favor of them!). He also mentions science fiction books like The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad. There's also a nice short documentary on Henry Roth.
MadInkBeard has a different take on the DVD. He points out some of the bad points of the film, most of which I agree with, I just don't think they make it a bad film. (For instance, I'm not annoyed by the long shots of sky and pool skimming, and as both Rake's Progress and CAAF point out, one of the best parts of the movie is Moskowitz rambling about Joseph Heller as scenes of a carnival go by.) However, I do agree with his last statement:

10. All that, and I still don't have the desire to pick up the novel, which Barnes & Noble re-released in the wake of the film.

The Stones of Summer appears to be a Faulkner-esque coming of age story. It's huge. It's the kind of book that you either struggle through and fall in love with, or simply struggle with. Again, while I'm sure Moskowitz wants you to read the book, I don't think this is the ultimate goal of the movie. The movie is trying to express the love of books and reading and how that affects a person. And that's why I love it.

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