What I’m Reading Now – The Stones Of Summer by Dow Mossman


A few years ago I came across a book with a title that intrigued me enough to read the dust jacket description and find out what  the book is about.

I was enticed enough by the description to purchase the (used) copy of the book I was holding for a mere 3 dollars. The description from Amazon is as follows:

‘Originally published to glowing reviews in 1972, Dow Mossman’s extraordinary debut is a sweeping coming-of-age tale that developed a passionate cult following. It recently inspired the award-winning documentary film Stone Reader, described by Peter Rainer of New York magazine as “a marvelous literary thriller that gets at the way books can stay with people forever.”
Rendered with breathtaking artistry and emotional depth, The Stones of Summer captures the beauty and pain of postwar America. Its vivid evocation of culture-void Iowa in the ’50s and ’60s reveals in layer after layer of richly observed detail the maturation—the very soul—of an artist. Its rediscovery was the catalyst for one filmmaker to confront his faith in the power of great literature to endure, and it can now be embraced by readers everywhere.’

It has, admittedly, taken me a few tries to be able to get into this book, through no fault of the author. I have, through no design of my own, picked up this book at times when there was a major event/change/transition in my life, and have put it down in favor of something much lighter to at least have a book in progress (which keeps me from going completely over the edge of sanity).  This time is no different, in terms of picking up the book during a major change/transition, but I have decided to stick with it, and wade through the 500+ pages no matter how long it takes me to finish it.

I have to admit this book is not for everyone. It’s part Jack Kerouac (a non-Benzadryne laced version), part John Irving (without any bears, transvestites, or wrestling), and part Hemingway (without the understated style of writing). Dow Mossman begins the tale (his only published novel to date) with a young Dawes Williams during his usual summer trip to his grandparents dog-breeding farm in Dawes City, Iowa, and then advances ten years to the late adolescence of the character and the friends and foibles he experiences along the way. The third section (which I have yet to delve into) advances the character’s life and story another ten years, into the late twenties of Dawes Williams, and his drifting through Mexico to recover from significant losses in his life.

I have been (with a side journey through Anne Rice’s latest Lestat Novel in late October) reading this book for over a month now, and though it’s slow going, that’s due to everything that’s on my plate at the moment, including the rapid approach of Christmas, not the book itself nor the author’s style of writing.  I find myself (when time allows) completely caught up in the prose and amazed at some of the turns of phrases the author has committed to paper.  Dow Mossman’s language truly captivates me again and again in the pages of this book, and I find myself alternating between elated (at his descriptive language) and horrified that this is the only book by this author that I am likely ever to find as he has published no others.

If you are, like I am, a lover of lengthy, weighty tomes that keep your attention for 4, 5, 6 hundred pages (or more) give this book a try.  I find myself, as I read along, curious as to how this book, like its author, fell out of the public eye and into ‘lost book’ obscurity for so long.  It is, in my humble opinion, well worth the effort to locate a copy and read it.


One thought on “What I’m Reading Now – The Stones Of Summer by Dow Mossman

  1. As a follow up to this blog post- the third section of the book was, for me, a little difficult to get through. It was reminiscent of when John Irving’s ‘The World According To Garp’ veers off into ‘book within a book’ territory with ‘The Pension Grillparzer’ – although more difficult to read. Overall I very much enjoyed this book, and wish the author had more of a canon to enjoy than this one offering.

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