14 August 2007

Books, reading and readers

As a kid, there was this book I read over and over again: Walk through cold fire by Cin Forshay-Lunsford. (A perfect book for someone who wanted to perceive oneself as an Outsider) My friend was as big a fan of the book as I was, so we took turns borrowing it from our small, local library. To my knowledge, Forshay-Lunsford never published another book (she was very young when Walk... was published in the mid-eighties). It would be interesting to know what happened to her; if she quit writing, if she took up another career etc. Google, who usually knows everything about everything, provides links to bookshops and forums, but nothing else.

This type of question is asked in Mark Moskowitz' documentary Stone Reader (2002). Moskowitz describes himself as an avid reader, a lover of books. In the early seventies he read a book that was praised in the New York Book Review - Stones of Summer by Daw Mossman. Searching the Internet, trying to learn more about the author, who never published another book, he didn't find out much. But, still being fascinated by the fate of Mossman, he tracks down the people surrounding the process of publishing and reviewing the book. In the documentary, publishing agents, reviewers, librarians and others are interviewed. In the end of the film, he visits Mossman and as it turns out, after the book was published, Mossman worked as a welder for a while, then he took care of his dying mother - etc.

Some of the reactions in the IMDB reviews question the seemingly loose idea of the film. I didn't have any problems with that. On the opposite: I found it to be a quite ingenious attempt to describe how much reading often means in our lives. And it also related this question to matters pertaining to publishing, editing and reviewing books. And some of the scenes were quite fabulous; at one point in the film, just before meeting up with Mossman, Moskowitz was phoning his mother up, nervously asking for her advice what he was to say to Mossman. In a tone conveying both irritation and amusement, his mother begged him "not to bother him too much".

This particular moment somehow shows how we are often enthusiastic about something, excited to meet somebody, but we have just a dim idea as to why we want this - it is not good for anything.

In addition to this, it was good to see that the film didn't make any statements about "the edifying nature of literature". Instead, the pleasure of reading was focused on.

No comments: