The Stones of Summer

Dow Mossman

I’m giving up on this book. I’ve been reading it since I finished A Wild Sheep Chase and going on a month, only halfway through—I just don’t see the point of forcing myself through it any longer.

This coming-of-age epic inspired a documentary film by Mark Moskowitz, which I read about a few years ago. Since then I’ve been very intrigued, and when I first saw the republished version in a bookstore several months ago, I’ve been wanting to delve into it. I watched (most of) the documentary this fall and got the book from the library shortly thereafter.

The novel is divided in three sections, representing distinct moments in Dawes Oldham Williams’s life—a not so subtle representation of “Dow”—who is growing up in Rapid Cedar, Iowa—not unlike Mossman either. The first section is a lyrical and at times confusing narration of a visit to the family farm in the western part of the state. Past and present are woven together to create a clear picture of the relationships between Dawes and his family. There is a lot of gorgeous language and not a whole lot of driving plot. The second section is a series of antics Dawes and his high school friends take part in—a lot of drinking and reckless driving and first encounters with girls. Again, there isn’t much of a narrative arc, and eventually I got sick of living in a world of adolescent boys. The third section finds Dawes in Mexico, following his path to being a writer. Though I believed that struggling through this would be rewarding in the end, I’m starting to think I am just distracting myself unnecessarily from the pile and lists of books I am a little more certain I will enjoy from start to finish.

The interesting thing about this book is that though it garnered a rave review in the New York Times Book Review, it has been the only book Mossman published. When Moskowitz finally read the book (having read the review and bought the book in the 70s), he was curious why Mossman never published anything again and his attempt to track him down is documented in the film. This might be the only time I would recommend the film over the book, though it’s not an adaptation of the story, so I guess it’s not the same thing.