March 19, 2004
Paul Auster plot comes to life

Just saw the fascinating Stone Reader - a documentary by Mark Moskowitz about the search for a long forgotten writer and the story of his only book, "The Stones of Summer".
The film looks and sounds like a reenactment of one of Paul Auster's plots, more specifically the plot of "The Locked Room" from The New York Trilogy: Like in Auster's book(s) it unfolds as an obsessed search for something, an elusive bit of Americana, a search for the creator of some obscure but significant cultural artifact. Like Auster's books it is told in the first person by the obsessed searcher himself (of course he is a man) and varies between reflections on writing, interviews with people found on the trail of the lost creator, and beatiful images from all over USA as our protagonist travels all over the place to follow even the most obscure clues in search of his long lost dream. Even the title of the quasimythical book, "The Stones of Summer", and the name of its author, Dow Mossman, have an Auster ring to them.
Apart from the captivating story of a brilliant writer who simply stopped writing (Auster again!), Moskowitz himself has one of the finest moments when he walks around his living room talking to the camera while he is putting away rolls of film. He comments on the footage he is storing and says "This is the interview with so-and-so. I haven't even seen it yet although you probably have - because in the film we will have shown that by now". The mixing of different times; that of creation with that of watching is another Auster touch.
As some of the commentary I found points out, the film does however have the little problem that we feel cheated a bit by Moskowitz self-conscious search:

Moskowitz’s quest is, fundamentally, a bit dishonest. He claims to exhaust all his resources — he even visits the guy who designed the jacket for Mossman’s book — but he avoids the best sources like they were bill collectors. In Iowa City he finally connects with William Cotter Murray, who was Mossman’s advisor at the University of Iowa and one of several people to whom The Stones of Summer was dedicated. Murray tells him casually that Mossman lives up the road in Cedar Rapids. You might think that Murray should have been one of the first people the filmmaker contacted, and you’d be right.

But as the commentary continues, this is easily forgiven, if for no other reason then because the story is so enjoyable.

Incidentally, that last quote was found on Culture Snob - which looks to be a very nice website on the kinds of culture us snobs tend to like - they even have a piece on The Locked Room.

Posted by Claus at March 19, 2004 02:31 AM | TrackBack (1)
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