Monday, August 08, 2005

DVD: Stone Reader (2003)

As if reading this V. S. Naipaul interview and accompanying essay on whether “nonfiction is better suited than fiction to capturing the complexities of today’s world” wasn’t bad enough, yesterday I watched SIDEWAYS again. Which opens with would-be novelist Paul Giamatti being told that reading fiction in this day and age is simply a waste of time.

Such pessimism would be enough to send me to my sickbed if I hadn’t spent a few hours watching Mark Moskowitz’s winning documentary and tooling around the accompanying website. This dense and textured film is a meditation on the power that novels have over their readers, an exploration of the fate of literature in the digital age, and an investigation into the fate of one particular writer: Dow Mossman, whose only book THE STONES OF SUMMER had a galvanizing effect on Moskowitz. It’s strange that a film got me more excited about fiction than anything that I’ve read in recent years.

The conceit of structuring the movie as a hunt for Mossman is corny but enjoyable; I’m sure I could have turned the author up in a day and half. (I believe it’s the destination, not the journey, which is why I’m not a documentarian.) I would have started at the University of Iowa, where Mossman studied. One thing the movie makes plain is that the Writers Workshop there is the center of American letters, a literary Holy See in the heartland.

It’s only fitting that writer, editor, and friend of both Dow Mossman and this website Ed Gorman turns up in the film, as his blog offers some of the best commentary on the current state of publishing. Not just from Ed but from novelists like Terrill Lee Lankford and Richard Wheeler.

R.I.P. Peter Jennings

I don’t have much to say about the late ABC anchorman that wasn’t voiced in this heartfelt tribute from the folks at Gawker.

Several years ago he did WORLD NEWS TONIGHT from Kerry Park in Seattle. When I wandered past early in the day Jennings was already there, taping intros for that night’s broadcast. The only word to describe his appearance was dashing; he was richly tanned, wearing one of his signature trench coats.

He spotted me hanging around and offered a smile and a cordial nod. I suppose I could have approached and said a few words to him, but I chose not to. I was content to watch one of the best in the business practice his craft in person.