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The Stones of Summer
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The Stones of Summer

3.12 of 5 stars 3.12  ·  rating details  ·  376 ratings  ·  100 reviews
"Originally published to glowing reviews in 1972, Dow Mossman's extraordinary debut is a sweeping coming-of-age novel that developed a passionate cult following - even as it went out of print for more than twenty years. It recently inspired director Mark Moskowitz's award-winning documentary film Stone Reader, which was embraced by readers across the country and described...more
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published October 6th 2003 by Sterling Publishing (first published 1972)
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Oct 09, 2014 Jonathan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jonathan by: Joseph McElroy
Surfacing Stones

That a text has been Buried tells us nothing of its quality. That it has been vigorously UnBuried 30 years later by passionate readers should, however, give us pause.

The Stones of Summer was published in 1972, with its author suffering a nervous breakdown during the period of its completion and publication. It was well reviewed. Its publisher, however, filed for bankruptcy soon after and the book fell quickly and quietly out of print. Its author had worked as a welder for 19...more
May 31, 2007 Ian rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: assholes
The inspiring story of an inexplicably angry child who grows into a "sensitive" teenage poet who enjoys getting drunk and setting people's houses on fire and finally a pretentious, ungrateful dick who moves to Mexico because his parents just don't understand him, man. If he were alive today he would be the guy in flip-flops who kept taking his pants off at the Super Bowl party I went to in Astoria this year.

Parts of it are well-written but it all adds up to far less than the sum of these parts a...more
Jul 25, 2008 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Not too many people. Eric.
Recommended to Mark by: Mark Moskowitz. I am not cool enough to find things without movi
Shelves: balki-say-w-o-w
Wow. I finally finished this wicked beast. It was beautiful. Difficult. Fantastic and haunted, funny and sad, real and damn nuts.

I don't really know how to react, other than read it again. I think I have to. Perhaps next summer. Mossman's prose is challenging. Abstract enough that I felt like I had been re-reading the same pages for hours. And, in many cases, I was.

I probably reread about 2/3 of the book, and only in the waning chapters did I achieve my balance. For me, it is very disorienting....more
James D.
Like any long trip, the first half of the journey is a bit uncomfortable and skeptical. Half way through you realize that you've learned so much that the rest of the ride is full of longing to see just where it is you are heading. Finally when you arrive you become quite aware that getting to the end is fullfilling, yet the adventure is in the journey. Mossman shows the awkwardness of impressionable youth, and the pains of coming to age, like no other author has. Is it dangerous to become too in...more
Mar 13, 2011 Debra marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Stephen King says: "If 20th-century America produced a book of ''Moby Dick'' stature, it's probably this one...but don't let that stop you, or even slow you down. All I mean is that like Melville's fish story, this is one whale of a tale that has somehow found an audience in spite of mind-boggling hurdles, including going out of print (Bobbs-Merrill quit doing fiction not long after it published ''The Stones of Summer'' in 1972) and only a smattering of reviews. Nor was the author exactly up to...more
Mar 30, 2007 jesse rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: see the documentary on the author "Stone Reader"
I'm not going to lie, this book takes time to read, time to like, time to comprehend. It grows on you, though. Mossman is also guilty of some of the faults for which I slammed JSF-- namely faux-poetry, faux-profundity. I guess I let him off the hook because he wrote it thirty years before JSF, went insane afterwards, and works as a welder in Iowa, where he lives in his childhood home. As opposed to, y'know, million dollar advances and buying a brownstone in Park Slope. Not that I can fault an au...more
Good first part, fun second, horribly pretentious third. I cannot stand subtexts, the story when a story that is, and the third part is littered with them. Is it just me, or do subtexts feel like an author's free writes that he feels compelled to toss into his novel?

Anyway, it was impossible to like the main character. I actually just felt sorry for him up until the point I could no longer summon a shred of concern whatsoever. He's socially awkward, but not funny, sensitive, yet selfish, and his...more
S Pat
Evidently, this book has received extraordinary hype; of which, I knew nothing about at the time of its purchase in 2003 - I just happened to think that the cover was pretty. Based on reviews, it seems the documentary, The Stone Reader, led many to read, or in the very least partially read, this very weighty novel. Fortunately, for me, it has had the opposite effect; The Stones of Summer had made me desperate to see the documentary. If nothing else, I would like to be introduced to the author wh...more
Bryan Frink
I'll keep it short, because most everything has already been said. The book absolutely dominated my attention for a week or two. The alienated Midwest upbringing, the almost violent rebellions (usually for no real reason)-- it all rang perfectly true. That's the first half of the novel. It has the kind of close focus of books by Kerouac and Henry Miller.

At about the halfway point, Dow's person saga intrudes on the book his real-life descent into madness. Via the book, I felt each dip and swerve...more
Jordan Aech
Stones Of Summer is a strange, muddy novel that has a very debatable importance. The only reason that this book is known by a wide audience (wide being absolutely anyone who reads) is from a film titled Stone Reader. In the film Mark Moskowitz goes on a quest of sorts to find more about a beloved book (Stones Of Summer) that he read when he was much younger. The strange thing about the book is that it received an enthusiastically positive review in the New York Times after it was published and t...more
Originally published in 1972, The Stones of Summer, despite favorable reviews and a cult following, went out of print for nearly 20 years. Following Mark Moskowitz's 2003 documentary film Stone Reader (about Mossman and The Stones of Summer), the book's popularity has undergone a much-deserved resurgence. Dow Mossman, an Iowa Writer's Workshop graduate, suffered a mental breakdown while completing the book, and slipped into relative obscurity following its publication (the only title Mossman wa...more
Cynda Wolfe
Sep 06, 2008 Cynda Wolfe rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: young people looking forward, old people looking back
Recommended to Cynda by: James Boyer
This book is a wonderful, sink-into-a-big-chair-with-a-glass-of-iced-tea summer read. Not my first time reading this book (should have marked it read I guess) I re read this book at various phases of my own life, and so doing, pick up one more fascinating detail or imagery that makes me laugh or think, or just feel, once more what it was like to be young and directionless, clueless and not caring one whit about consequences. The very rhythm of the story lulls you back into the days when time was...more
If you consider yourself stupid or lazy, you probably shouldn't try to read this book. If you've never read any Faulker, read some Faulkner, then get back to us. Stones of Summer is challenging and epic. Highly poetic; some of the most beautiful phrases and concepts/sentences/imagery of any book I can recall. One of those books discovered more recently; i.e. a forgotten/underrecognized literary classic now enjoying literary fame. Difficult in some ways; if you enjoy the idea of reading Sound and...more
Nicolas Bryant
easily top 5 books that I have ever read
This is the best novel I've ever read.
I bought this book in the Spring of 2004... I wanted to like this book. I really, really did. I had read good reviews- it was highlighted at the book store as a must read and I was intrigued by the author's personal history. I tried reading it, probably picking it up 5 or 6 times before ultimately delegating it to the Goodwill pile. I never even made it 100 pages in. Usually, if I put a book down and pick it up later, I can pick up right where I left off, or worst case, I go back to the beginnin...more
Okay. I lied. I only read about half of it. I put this on my "currently reading" list for awhile because I was somewhere in the middle of it when I stopped many months ago... I just didn't have the energy to go on. So I'm going to go ahead and move it to "Read" even though I haven't. I need some reward for having gotten half way. It was like a nightly assignment. Finally I thought: Why am I doing this? I may or may not pick it up again. I read all the hype, bought the documentary used (very chea...more
Four stars is a really tough call to make. The book was divided into 3 sections that became decidedly less poetic with each step. The first section, about a trip to the country as a nine year old, was amazing. It held a lot of poetic musings as well as fine storytelling and humor. I am a sucker for coming of age stories, so keep that in mind.

The second section is about his life as a teenager and anyone that is a fan of Nelson Algren ought to read this. Some really great ne'er do well characters,...more
This book made it on my list after seeing the fascinating documentary The Stone Reader a few years ago. I finally got around to cracking open this book to see what was so moving about it that it launched a man on a quest to find out what happened to the author. What I found between the covers of The Stones of Summer is difficult to describe.

The Stones of Summer covers the life of a young man and all of the strangeness that accompanies his growing up in Iowa. He's not a likeable character (he swe...more
Bob Wake
[Reviewed in 2004]

Fifteen years ago, Errol Morris’s documentary The Thin Blue Line famously resulted in freeing an innocent man from prison. Last year, in what is arguably a comparable turn of events, Mark Moskowitz’s documentary Stone Reader rescued a forgotten American writer from obscurity. Moskowitz’s scruffy and warmly personal film recounts his obsessive search for Dow Mossman, the author of a long out-of-print 1972 novel, The Stones of Summer. For the last three decades, it turns out, Mos...more
I haven't actually finished reading this book -- and I may someday. I am 250 pages into almost 600 and need a break. Sometimes I found myself appreciating the writing but I just so totally disliked Dawes Williams, the main character, that I just wanted to quit reading. But we were on vacation and it was the only book I had with me so I managed to keep reading. I purchased it without having read any reviews -- maybe that was my mistake although I just went and read reviews and they were a kind of...more
I was drawn to this by the pure romance of it, and the Iowa Connection. The author (who attended the Iowa Writer's Workshop) works for 10 years on this novel, publishes it in 1972, gains a cult following and a glowing review in the New York Times, then the book goes out of print and the author fades into obscurity, until a filmmaker makes a documentary (Stone Reader) of whatever-happened-to and poof! the novel is re-issued and readers cheer.

After reading some reviews of the book on Goodreads, I...more
When I read Joyce or Pynchon, I feel like every sentence is important, even if I only understand about a tenth of it. With Dow Mossman, nine out of ten sentences could be eliminated without any discernable impact on the story. The self-indulgent, apparently semi-autobiographical train of thought of Dawes Williams rambles on endlessly through the book (especially in the third, and worst, section) and is exacerbated by the fact that we are presented with no reason to care at all what Dawes William...more
May 04, 2012 Rob rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: a special breed, somewhat self-abusive
This book was a monster. After spending a huge amount of time and effort on it, I think a liked it. Or it may just be respect for it's audacity, girth, stylistic intensity and risks. I might just want to like it because it felt important and artistic, though I'm not sure it was, and it took up so much of my time and attention. In the end I think it needed better editing. It was a bit too much. Too long-winded, too self-indulgent, too angry and as weird as this sounds, dated. There was some great...more
The first act of this novel is fantastic, though the main character is tough to like. The middle of the novel feels like Dawes Williams' meets "Dawson's Creek," and each chapter plays out like a forgettable episode of pop psychology, teen drama; i.e. this is the episode where the kids get drunk and go to the zoo; this is the episode where the kids play baseball and learn that being a teen is confusing; this is the episode that Dawes loses his virginity; (on the other hand, reading the middle par...more
Brian S
I came to this book, as I assume most readers have, because it was the subject of the documentary “Stone Reader.” With hopes of “discovering” an overlooked masterwork. Well, Stones of Summer is not a masterwork, but its not a catastrophe either. Within this nearly 600 pager, mixed with sections of I guess what I’d call stream of consciousness narrative, are several good stories. I found myself enjoying the sections of the book dealing with Dawes Williams’ family quite a bit, his immediate family...more
This book has some beautiful prose and some deep imagery, and some moments when you'll consider putting it down and not coming back to it. But you should. Come back to it. Because if you finish it you might realize that it's left scenes and characters that you've come so close to that they have become a part of you. And that's what good writing is.

There are two quotes from the documentary that may help to remember:

1) "This book is difficult."

2) "Not all great books are always enjoyable."
This was a difficult decision, but I had to go with 4 stars instead of 3. There are just too many fine things in the first two sections. The third section is a phantasmagoria that leaves one reeling. I simply have to admire a book where the author pretty much pulls out all of stops. The third section was difficult and challenging. That, in the end, in and of itself is, for me, worthwhile reading. I just cannot bring myself to say categorically that I did not like it. The fact that I continue to...more
This book comprises several of my summers, spanning from being a sophomore in high school where the book was just a bleary, long, yet attractive dream, to being a sophomore in college where the book became a sometimes scary, almost always disorienting, yet in the end over-powering and real in its psychology, spirituality, and narrative. I say, "in the end," but I actually never finished the book (it's quite long and I think even now I would be cautious to think of trying to finish it--and afraid...more
ugh! i was working at barnes & noble when steve riggio decided to drag this back out of the grave it had been rightfully buried in. i remember when our store manager came over and told us it was a corporate initiative for everyone to "at least try to read it." we tried...we failed. and many of our colleagues around the country failed also. sometimes good books get overlooked their first go round, but not many. this one should have never been resurrected. long, long over-descriptive scenes, p...more
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Should I stick with it? 3 6 May 30, 2014 05:10AM  
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“...she knew again that her humour had saved her only for larger destructions; that the mad and the murdered, the living, must learn to hold their chemical breath.” 3 likes
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