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University of Iowa News Release

April 1, 2003

Bijou to Show Acclaimed Documentary Stone Reader

Stone Reader, Mark Moskowitz's acclaimed documentary of his search for Cedar Rapids author Dow Mossman, will play at the Iowa Memorial Union's Bijou Theatre April 10 through 16 and include a question-and-answer session with the filmmaker following its April 12 debut.

The film chronicles Moskowitz's humorous, obsessive quest to find out why Mossman and his critically acclaimed first novel, The Stones of Summer, faded away and if Moskowitz is, indeed, the book's only reader. Along the way the filmmaker encounters such major literary figures as Leslie Fielder, influential critic and author of Love and Death in the American Novel; Robert Gottlieb, editor of Catch-22, who is currently editing President Clinton's memoirs; and Frank Conroy, head of the UI Writers' Workshop.

Moskowitz will attend the April 12 screening and answer questions afterward.

Moskowitz's cinematic journey was screened at the SlamDance Film Festival in January and has been written about widely in publications, TV and radio shows across the United States. In 1972, Moskowitz, then 18, read an enthusiastic New York Times review of The Stones of Summer by first-time author Mossman. He bought it because the Times touted Stones as the book of his generation, but in spite of being an avid reader, Moskowitz couldn't get past the first 20 pages.

Twenty-five years later, Moskowitz rediscovers the book and this time can't put it down. Enthralled with its story and wonderful originality, Moskowitz tries to buy copies for his friends and to look for other works by the author. He can't find the book. He can't find a record of the author. He can't find anyone who has heard the author's name, let alone read the book. Why were there no readers? Why no books? Did Mossman just stop writing or is there something more? Was he even alive?

Traveling to a remote corner of Maine, Moskowitz ferrets out John Seelye, the critic who enthusiastically reviewed The Stones of Summer in the New York Times, only to find Seelye knows less about Mossman than he does. What begins as a quest becomes an obsession as Moskowitz crisscrosses the country -- Philadelphia, Tampa, Pittsburgh, Detroit, San Francisco, Buffalo, New York City, the coast of Maine, the plains of Iowa, the red rocks of Colorado -- ruminating with others about books that have gone in and out of favor, about the future of reading and publishing and about the fate of other ambitious first novels.

Conroy, who now heads the Iowa Writers' Workshop where Mossman studied, reflects that "it may have been too late" for such a novel in 1972. Leslie Fiedler tells Moskowitz he's been "fascinated by one-book writers for years." While some see Mossman's silence as an abandonment of talent, others see it as part of a larger dilemma: the course American literature has taken over the last 30 years, and as reading wanes, the conversion of the book from reading object to collectible.

Moskowitz has produced and directed more than 3,400 commercials for hundreds of political candidates nationwide over a 20-year career. He has won Pollies, political advertising's highest award, for five consecutive years. Making political ads, Moskowitz said, "is a very tough business. Reading helps keep me sane between election cycles. I never realized that when I started out with a "short end" I would end up making a long epic. But, it was a lot more fun than the world of 30-second spots."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu; Andy Stoll, Executive Director, Bijou Theatre, 319-335-3258, bijou@uiowa.edu

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