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The Stones of Summer

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Originally published to glowing reviews in 1972, Dow Mossman's extraordinary debut is a sweeping coming-of-age tale that developed a passionate cult following. It recently inspired the award-winning documentary film Stone Reader, described by Peter Rainer of New York magazine as “a marvelous literary thriller that gets at the way books can stay with people forever.”

Rendered with breathtaking artistry and emotional depth, The Stones of Summer captures the beauty and pain of ...

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New York, NY 2003 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 586 p. Audience: General/trade. His first and only book which was well received, but then ... the book and Mossman dropped out of sight. It has been revived because documentary filmmaker Mark Moskowitz tracked down the author, resulting in his award-winning 2002 film Stone Reader. As noted in the film, the book was released, lauded as a masterpiece, and summarily forgotten. Read more Show Less

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New York, NY 2003 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 608 p. Audience: General/trade. His first and only book which was well received, but then ... the book and Mossman dropped out of sight. It has been revived because documentary filmmaker Mark Moskowitz tracked down the author, resulting in his award-winning 2002 film Stone Reader. As noted in the film, the book was released, lauded as a masterpiece, and summarily forgotten. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Originally published to glowing reviews in 1972, Dow Mossman's extraordinary debut is a sweeping coming-of-age tale that developed a passionate cult following. It recently inspired the award-winning documentary film Stone Reader, described by Peter Rainer of New York magazine as “a marvelous literary thriller that gets at the way books can stay with people forever.”

Rendered with breathtaking artistry and emotional depth, The Stones of Summer captures the beauty and pain of postwar America. Its vivid evocation of culture-void Iowa in the '50s and '60s reveals in layer after layer of richly observed detail the maturation—the very soul—of an artist. Its rediscovery was the catalyst for one filmmaker to confront his faith in the power of great literature to endure, and it can now be embraced by readers everywhere.

Don't miss our exclusive limited-edition DVD of Mark Moskowitz's award-winning film Stone Reader.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Originally published to glowing reviews in 1972, Dow Mossman's first and only novel is a sweeping coming-of-age tale that spans three decades in the life of irrepressible 1950s teen Dawes Williams. Earning its author comparisons to no less than James Joyce, J. D. Salinger, and Mark Twain, this great American novel developed a passionate cult following -- even as it went out of print for more than 20 years -- and recently inspired Mark Moskowitz's award-winning film Stone Reader. View a video clip from the film.
John Seelye
"The Stones of Summer" cannot possibly be called a promising first novel for the simple reason that it is such a marvelous achievement that it puts forth much more than mere promise. Fulfillment is perhaps the best word, fulfillment at the first stroke, which is so often the sign of superior talent.... Dow Mossman's novel is a whole river of words fed by a torrential imagination.... For me at least, reading "The Stones of Summer" was crossing another Rubicon, discovering a different sensibility, a brave new world of conciousness. "The Stones of Summer" is a holy book, and it burns with a sacred Byzantine fire, a generational fire, moon-fire, stone-fire.
The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
After its 1972 publication, this sprawling, modernist Great American Novel-style epic garnered its author critical comparison to Faulkner, for its saga of rural dynastic decline; Salinger, for its mood of youthful alienation; and Joyce, for its labyrinthine, cryptically allusive, stream-of-consciousness renditions of the private psyche. The episodic coming-of-age narrative follows budding writer Dawes Williams from boyhood on his grandfather's greyhound ranch, through a feckless Iowa adolescence of drinking and joyriding, to a mentally unstable adulthood in which, through rants against propriety, positivism and the establishment and a terminal bout of countercultural dissoluteness in Mexico, he becomes the voice of the 1960s' lost generation. The real action, though, is the development of Dawes's writerly sensibility, his-i.e., the author's-knack for transmuting the dross of reality into the gold of literary metaphor. But Mossman's own lyrical, metaphorical sensibility tends toward pseudo-profundities ("[h]er body was an inward fall, a deep spiral of musky sea lying easily within itself"), abstractions ("[s]he had a metaphysical eye, as blue as perfect nightmares"), and a synesthetic scrambling of sensory categories ("[h]e felt he could not listen to the light anymore, that it stood off in the distance, wordless with impossible opinion"). Long out of print before this reissue, the novel has generated a cult following among those who find in its inchoate but intense imagery the very portrait of the young artist's soul. But many readers may find the book's hallucinatory prose-"In the beginning there was me, green smoke and oatmeal, conscious light, all looking for a shoe to rise from"-interesting but self-indulgent, and the plot insufficiently gripping. (Oct. 22) Forecast: B&N CEO Steve Riggio secured the chain's right to reissue this epic for a healthy six figures in a deal that also helps finance distribution of the independent film about Mossman, Stone Reader. The Stones of Summer is an achievement, but at 600 dense pages, B&N may end up deciding it's better to stick to the classics. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Published to mostly critical acclaim in 1972 -LJ's reviewer hated it-this book, along with its author, disappeared anyway. The story, however, has found new life via the film The Stone Reader, so you might want a copy. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Baltimore Sun
...a charming, poignantly funny and often brilliant autobiographical novel that trumpets the arrival of a major talent.— Paul Chutkow
Boston Phoenix
That the contemporary struggles of the young can be effectively and ingeniously rendered is proven by The Stones of Summer, Dow Mossman's epic novel of the growth of a young man in the cortex and context of middle America.... His mastery of character and dialogue is astounding.
— William Kowinski
Linton Weeks
If you read "The Stones of Summer," you'll discover that it's rare in other ways. As a first novel, it's roller-coaster breathtaking -- in its derring-do and in its defeats. Mossman is obsessed with language and the madcap magic it can conjure. The protagonist, Dawes Williams, is a precocious Iowa kid living in a foulmouthed, foible-filled world. And the landscape Mossman draws is unbelievable -- until you read a hundred pages or so and start to believe it.
The Washington Post
Los Angeles Times
The writing is rich, lush, a full harvest of words.... — Russell W. Schoch Jr.
Paul Chutkow
...a charming, poignantly funny and often brilliant autobiographical novel that trumpets the arrival of a major talent.
The Baltimore Sun
Russell W. Schoch, Jr.
The writing is rich, lush, a full harvest of words....
The Los Angeles Times
The New York Times
The single fact that emerges from a reading of "The Stones of Summer" is of Dow Mossman's considerable talent.... He has an endless supply of comic invention, a lyrical and sweet tone as natural to his writing as the song of a bird, and a way to use, manipulate and build on the tall tale that goes to the very heart of America writing. — Thomas Lask
The Washington Post
If you read "The Stones of Summer," you'll discover that it's rare in other ways. As a first novel, it's roller-coaster breathtaking -- in its derring-do and in its defeats. Mossman is obsessed with language and the madcap magic it can conjure. The protagonist, Dawes Williams, is a precocious Iowa kid living in a foulmouthed, foible-filled world. And the landscape Mossman draws is unbelievable -- until you read a hundred pages or so and start to believe it.
Linton Weeks
Thomas Laks
The single fact that emerges from a reading of "The Stones of Summer" is of Dow Mossman's considerable talent.... He has an endless supply of comic invention, a lyrical and sweet tone as natural to his writing as the song of a bird, and a way to use, manipulate and build on the tall tale that goes to the very heart of America writing.
The New York Times
William Kowinski
That the contemporary struggles of the young can be effectively and ingeniously rendered is proven by The Stones of Summer, Dow Mossman's epic novel of the growth of a young man in the cortex and context of middle America.... His mastery of character and dialogue is astounding.
The Boston Phoenix
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780760748848
  • Publisher: Sterling
  • Publication date: 10/6/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 608
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Dow Mossman received his B.A. from the University of Iowa and his M.F.A. from the Iowa Writer's Workshop in 1969.

Good To Know

In our interview with Mossman, he recalls, "The first real job I ever had was pulling corn and soybeans outta boxcars at Cargills. It remains the only one I have had where, at breaks, everyone I knew lay flat on the floor, put a bottle of cold Pepsi on their (panting) navels and (only) breathed for 15 minutes."

Mossman is an avid Cubs fan and rides a motorcycle.

Some of the other literary figures who have cameos in Stone Reader, Mark Moskowitz's documentary film about Mossman: legendary literary agent Carl Brandt, Iowa Writers' Workshop head Frank Conroy, and Robert Gottlieb, star editor of Joseph Heller's Catch 22.

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    1. Hometown:
      Cedar Rapids, Iowa
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 10, 1943
    2. Place of Birth:
      Cedar Rapids, Iowa
    1. Education:
      2 years at Coe College; B.A., University of Iowa; M.F.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1969

Read an Excerpt

When August came, thick as a dream of falling timbers, Dawes Williams and his mother would pick Simpson up at his office, and then they would all drive west, all evening, the sun before them dying like the insides of a stone melon, split and watery, halving with blood. August was always an endless day, he felt, white as wood, slow as light. Dawes shifted about in his seat, uncomfortable, watching the land slide past. It was late, a steady progression of night; the conversations inside the car were like great wood eyes and, driving west over Iowa, the evening was always air vague with towns, blue fences, and crossroads vacant of cars. He watched the deserted country porches slide by like lonely pickets guarding the gray, outbreaking storm of sky; like juts of rock.

They were going to the farm again, like all those other summers, he thought. He grew restless, like something stuck to his seat in a movie theatre; like something being made only to watch everything at once, and his mother, Leone, Arthur's daughter, would feed him crackers and Coke and tell him they couldn't possibly stop at another service station because her parents, Arthur and especially Gin, were growing older now so they must reach the farm before midnight. The new '50 Chevy was silent and green, smelling almost of iron linen, as they rode down the last of day, and the boy would ask about the greyhounds again, and why his grandfather didn't simply raise corn like the other farmers. Simpson would take the cold cigar from his mouth and say:

"Yes sir, old boy. Art still grows some corn for the science of it, but Arthur's a smart man for a farmer, and knows that greyhounds are the best crop that can be taken from Iowa."

. . . .

Sitting on the living-room floor, playing the latest chic game -- composed mostly of a single wooden frame and some Newtonian steelies swinging together on strings -- flown in from New York with Mrs. Harrison Rawlings, Sr., Dawes Williams suddenly felt if he ever wanted to describe the perfect circle of Ratshit's life, he would need an example. And sitting there, watching the steel balls describe perfectly inert actions against one another as they spun perfectly retraced parabolas in the air, Dawes Wil­liams suddenly figured it this way: Ratshit Rawlings idolized, much too openly, the older athletes; and the side that Ratshit idolized was the blatant fuck-up side. In the eyes of Ratshit Rawlings, to be an all-American, clean-cut, crew-cut fuck-up was a sophisticated thing. Throwing it all away in the end was the epitome of style. And, still sitting there watching the steel balls rebound against one another with a perfect, repeating, waning symmetry, Dawes Williams felt even that he had found the example to prove it all:

One night they had all sat in the gym that was also the auditorium watching the varsity practice. A stage set for Booth Tarkington's Seventeen was set against the far wall like a pink summer cloud, nature-given; an archaic vision of near innocence the moment it was painted, a hollow log of a stage just waiting for the players, waiting for the sophisticated kid from Chicago to come rolling into town in his gay, hopelessly affluent yet somehow rustic, yellow, open-air roadster meant for stopping at illicit roadhouses just over the county line. The basketball court lay its naked four-square reality in front.

The late, gray winter shadows had come from the chicken-wire windows leaving only cages of shade to overlay a painted-on-cardboard summer gazebo. Dawes Williams thought he had been sitting there, trapped only in his skin, in Iowa which was really the same as Indiana, in the exact middle of the twentieth century. Coach Orville Boggs watched, whistle-mouthed, the late practice like a Florentine prince who was unaware except for the fact that he was vaguely conscious of being asleep. Everyone was tense, because the team was miraculously in the finals of the sectionals. Willis Skokes began a slow, deliberate, rhythmic dribble down the floor. He was bringing the ball down, right hand raised in signal, a screaming banshee without a sound, the middle finger extended, and the yellow-shirted second string eyed him with the stare of a single animal. The gym hushed itself and became a closed box. Dawes Williams thought the tension was terrific. Willis Skokes was approaching midcourt. The stars came out. What would he do? Drive it? Fade softly as night into the lane, past a screen, and jump-shoot it? Drive in like a furious cat and then, at the last moment, with great grace and magnanimity, bounce-pass it off? The sun wavered in the west; then decided to fall in again. Suddenly -- with feeling -- Willis Skokes merely tucked the ball under his arm like a movie of Goose Tatum, did a small bunny-hop, a Chaplin walk three times round the center circle, he swiveled his butt in two cutely contradictory movements and he ... he fired the ball from midcourt. Good God, Dawes Williams thought, sitting there, there is no precedent for this. Good God, Dawes Williams thought, it rose, rises, in a speechless arc and then falls against the back wall of the gym with the sound of a small fish being hammered to death on a flat, dry rock.

HE HAD DRAWN NO IRON.

He had drawn no iron, and Coach Orville Boggs slumped to the floor, his life over. A life once dedicated quietly to example and youth, the American way, was now over and lost in the deep winter shadows of an unpretentious gym. He was finished. He had failed. With nearly his last breath he ordered Skokes from the gym, the entire building. Orville Boggs' arm extended baroquely toward the door, offering nothing, saying simply:

"Willis, leave us please," with some last dignity.

And with that, Willis Skokes turned on his heel, like a French clown, to an audience deathly shocked with pity and adoration that approached self-recognition and horror, he bowed, smiled like a faggot, and walked to the door on his hands.

When Ratshit Rawlings saw that happen, he knew there was God.

. . . .

Willis Skokes would never play again, but then it didn't matter: he had become a legend and, besides, Eddie said he would probably be banging his girl Dixie Kakes again in a mere matter of hours anyway.

Only Ratshit died. He never recovered. He lay broken-backed over two auditorium chairs and laughed a high, echoing rill for nearly an hour. In the end, Dawes Williams carried him home and left him on his mother's stoop, like carrying a drunk with one separated arm and shoulder. He didn't come to school; and he didn't eat. He just lay in his room and became periodically hysterical. From the day he arose, Ratshit Rawlings believed firmly in Willis Skokes. He emulated him; studied him in the halls; talked about him incessantly. Finally, Ratshit even analyzed him. He discussed him, frankly, some years later, in terms of Christ-like salvation. It grew. It became mythic; and at the center remained always the image of Willis Skokes; Willis T. Skokes as the personification of -- "I could have done it all right, if I had so chosen: but fortunately for me and my being I did not so choose."

Because you weren't a fuck-off if you chose to become one. Anyone in Rapid Cedar could tell you that. Even Travis Thomas almost understood that. And so, from an early age, Ratshit Rawlings had chosen an unclassi­cal variation on a court-jester theme in which, by merely choosing to play the fool, he thought he would be able eventually to mock, enlighten, finally even rise above the king; the entire system of the king, his father, Mr. Harrison "Ratshit" Rawlings, Sr. Dawes Williams understood it. He watched it grow; he watched it all flower like a manure-headed weed until finally, breaking through, festering into a field of only sun after all of those years of rising through soil, it became suddenly self-conscious and merely eccentric. And that was ironic, or maybe it wasn't, because Ratshit Rawl­ings claimed some obscure New England Transcendentalist as ancestor and because, Dawes Williams thought finally, Ratshit must have inherited Willis Skokes like some brilliant seed of a gene that never quite bloomed; that refused to hatch back over in this dreaming, more technical air; that had somehow got choked, blackened, inverted and reversed somewhere along the way. In the end, Dawes Williams could remember Ratshit Rawl­ings talking of Willis Skokes in terms of being some kind of a secular oversoul.

Soon Dawes Williams, who was not really playing with Mrs. Rawlings' Newtonian steelies anyway, roused himself from his dreaming and began to watch Eddie, who was sitting over in the corner, watching him back. Eddie was looking back over at him, and they were beginning to watch each other think. Eddie, Dawes Williams knew without asking, was sitting over there thinking that Dawes Williams was dreaming up another of about the biggest batches of crap he had ever heard. Eddie knew that Dawes Williams liked to distort things, to make them complicated for the hell of it. He knew that Ratshit Rawlings was often a whipped-out bastard that couldn't cut it. He knew that there was just a lot of Ratshit Rawlings in Dawes Williams too, by God. He knew mostly that Ratshit Rawlings was only good for games when things got dull. And that he, Eddie himself, had a Welshman's liver and a limited explanation for things; and that although Dawes Williams was one of his best friends, he hated his guts....

It was still Saturday afternoon, and everyone was waiting, waiting for the Rawlingses to leave for Iowa City. Just then, however, everyone was watching as Mr. Harrison Rawlings, Sr., busily and drunkenly threw Rat­shit's entire allowance, a crisp ten-dollar bill, on the exact center of the carpet. Then Mr. Rawlings sat back, into the bemused distance of his chair, and watched as Harrison, Jr., went over, bent down, and picked it up.

Coming back into the circle of Newtonian steelies, sitting down Indian-style, Dawes could see Ratshit's face was bright red, glassy and stoned over. But soon even that passed because it was a football afternoon, the Evashevski era, and because everything was filtering into the grander design of stealing the car. Around twelve-thirty the Country Club set began coming past, and drifting in. They stopped in small, select caravans of Cadillacs, Lincolns and an occasional Mercedes convertible. There was a quiet parade of tasteful straw baskets with neatly checkered cloths, tweed coats and sleeveless V-necked sweaters, brown wing tips and an occasional lawyer's pipe. Silver flasks flashed in the Midwestern sun. The sun sank beyond noon, the fighting Hawkeyes had already kicked off, and everyone who was fourteen wished suddenly that the whole world would get its ass on the road.

. . . .

But Dawes Williams thought Ratshit's mother, who was sitting in a chair near the window, who was obviously not leaving for anywhere at the moment, was one of the most striking older women he'd ever seen. The dense fall light fell through her premature platinum hair. Dawes remembered talking to her one Saturday about Martin Luther. He had sat back, judg­ing her ideas about Martin Luther, becoming the real snob in the piece by deciding she was really quite intelligent, but in the middle she had destroyed the whole mood anyway by pausing and intoning:

"Dawes, you sound like such a nice, reasonable boy. Is there any way you could...that is, is there any way you could use your influence to see that Harrison is not called Rat's...Rat's shit any more do you suppose?"

Dawes Williams promised he would try his best, but nothing had come of it.

Later, after stealing the car and making long circles through the town and returning, reparking the whole thing on its chalk marks in the driveway long after the Rawlingses had left, they sat in the kitchen and drank straight warm bourbon from wine glasses and tried not to wince. Travis and Dunker took theirs down in two large gulps and then looked out of the window for a long time. When they looked back, their eyes were still slightly flushed. They all drank two apiece and sat on the kitchen floor talking in the late, drifting shadows. Dawes Williams said:

"By God, I think I'm drunk," and they all began laughing, and looking at each other closely as if they were supposed to see something they had never seen before. The early fall evening began wafting the walls of Mrs. Rawlings' kitchen without even a voice. The Rawlingses would be home soon. It was time to roll the underground up and call it a day. They got up and headed for the porch. They hung around for awhile and said goodby to Ratshit. Travis turned the other way. Eddie, Dunker and Dawes walked to the corner. They turned. The pale light grayed in the bare trees, drifted off like a boat in the cold autumn limbs. Travis was already down the block.

"Hey, Travis," they said, "we'll be seeing ya."

"That's right, you will," he said, turning. "Damn right. I'll be seeing ya. And don't let your meat loaf," he called after them down the quiet street.

It had been a good day, a day already slipping into memory, gone down the long edges of boulevards full as houses with dark elm and white cedar.

"What's up tonight?" Dunker was saying.

"I'm taking Georgia down by the hedges on Ben Franklin Field and wrestlin' her for it," Eddie said.

"Wrestle her for what?" Dawes Williams said, turning off, calling behind himself, moving up the hill for home, drunk on the air.

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Table of Contents

Book 1 A Stone of Day 1949-1950 1
Book 2 Stones of Night 1956-1961 163
Book 3 The Stones of Dust and Mexico 1967-1968 355
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Reading Group Guide

Our Book Club Recommendation
The Stones of Summer is a remarkable book in a number of ways, making it a wonderful, unique selection for book clubs. Dow Mossman's coming-of-age epic, set in the American heartland, is a grand, big-hearted take on a familiar theme: a young man's struggles to find himself and understand the nature of the world that has shaped him. It's also an ambitious attempt to capture a specific time and place in America -- the small-town world of the Midwest as it experiences the tumultuous changes of the 1950s and 1960s. Most poignantly, The Stones of Summer is a great "lost" work -- a critically hailed first novel, published in 1972, that then fell out of print and has now finally been reintroduced to the reading public.

Mossman's novel is divided into three parts. The first is a lyrical, perfectly distilled rendering of the boyhood of an introspective, mystical Iowan named Dawes Williams, the hero of The Stones of Summer. With a poetic technique that has drawn comparisons to William Faulkner and James Joyce, Mossman maps the sensitive soul of young Dawes. The boy's "dreaminess" sets the tone -- this is a book that invites readers to think about their dreams, their personal and even artistic response to what the world puts before them. Reading groups will in particular find much to explore in Mossman's dazzling language and brilliant descriptive powers.

The second section picks up with Dawes as a considerably wilder 18-year-old whose energies are now directed outward into a life of drunken, misbegotten adventures with a motley group of male friends -- and, of course, toward women. The story turns to rough-and-tumble comedy, with the perfected language of Part 1 being replaced by a new set of voices: Dawes and his friends, as they play, argue, drink, and make love, speak a rowdy, unmistakably American language that groups will find both hilarious and fascinating. Their adventures evoke both On the Road and Henry Fielding's high-spirited Tom Jones, as Dawes seeks in his often disastrous impulses a breakthrough from the ordinary. With chaotic humor, the author sends Dawes and his friends on a joyride through late adolescence -- but it soon becomes clear that despite his heroic efforts to escape the limitations of his world, Dawes remains a part of it.

Reading groups will discover in the third section of The Stones of Summer the gripping, tragic dimension of Dawes's story -- the late 1960s finds the young man, ten years older, in a seaside town in Mexico. He is the author of an unfinished novel, and suffers from an even more pronounced sense of separation from reality. Mossman painfully confronts questions of how the visionary artist finds a place in the world, and whether the cost of a truly individual relationship to reality is...sanity itself. Through it all, The Stones of Summer never loses sight of the boy it began with, and reading groups will find that Dawes's journey from innocence to experience provides a wealth of topics for discussion. And Mossman's feverish, irrepressible language, bursting with imagery and provocative metaphor, will leave with many book club members a memory to savor -- the sound of an unforgettable American voice. Bill Tipper

Discussion Questions from the Publisher
1. The final scene in the book can almost appear to be a collection of fragments. What do you think happens? How would you interpret the final sentence, " 'You can't get away with this stuff,' Dawes Williams'd thought. 'Nobody can.' " What does this say about the novel's conclusion?

2. The author has suggested that The Stones of Summer can be thought of in the Shakespearean tradition of comedy and tragedy, but has questioned whether the story should be described as a comedy or a tragedy. What do you think? How does the author mix comic and tragic elements in the novel? Does either triumph in the end?

3. There is a significant difference in how the writer evokes a strong sense of time and place between Book 1 "A Stone of a Day" and Book 2, "The Stones of Night." How do his specific descriptions of place in Part 1 and of relationships in Part II invoke memories of your own?

4. Book 3 contains long excerpts of Dawes Williams' journals. How does the author use these journals as a narrative device? What is the relationship between the book we are reading, and the book that Dawes is (possibly) trying to write?

5. Much of Dawes' energy as a young man is spent in a conscious rebellion against authority. Who are important authority figures in The Stones of Summer? Arthur (the grandfather) is certainly one of the most obvious authority figures; are there others of equal significance? Do you think that there are ways that Dawes himself becomes an authority figure by the end of the book?

6. Discuss the role of women in the book. How do the primary women in Book 1 and Book 3 differ from Summer Letch? How does Dawes attitude toward women develop through the story? What do you think we are meant to understand about his capacity for relationships with women?

7. Although The Stones of Summer does not use the first person perspective, the "point of view" of the narrator is often somewhat mysterious. Whose point of view is this? Is it Dawes' own perspective, as narrated through the third person? If it is Dawes', how is that perspective influencing the "reality" the reader is seeing? If it isn't Dawes', what is the nature of the point of view we do get?

8. Whose writing do you think Dow Mossman emulates? He's been critically compared to everyone from William Faulkner to J.D. Salinger, Malcolm Lowry to Larry McMurtry. Do you agree? Who would you choose? Are there other names you would add to this list?

9. The author likes to describe Dawes Williams as "growing up seriously absurd." (an expression that was popularized in the 1960s by Paul Goodman's classic nonfiction work Growing Up Absurd). In what ways does The Stones of Summer resemble other "coming-of-age" novels? In what ways is it different?

10. What would you say is the theme of this book? Does it have a single theme?

11. The author often describes his book as a "narrative poem" and a "mock epic." Do you agree? How does the poetic element of the author's style influence the effect of the story? How might the idea of the "mock epic" - originally a form of poetry that applied heroic forms and metaphors to more ordinary events, creating a humorous or satirical effect - be at work in this story? What do you think the writer is trying to do or say with humor?

12. The author has often said, "this book is 98% autobiography with only a few stretchers" but also has said that he "hopes that readers will see it as 100% fiction." This is complicated by the fact that the letters from Vietnam in The Stones of Summer are, according to the author, real letters. What do you think the author is trying to say about fact and fiction? Discuss the tension between fiction and fact in a book that draws heavily upon an author's experience. Does the author's statement about "autobiography" change your response to the story?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 23 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(11)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

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1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2004

    Well I Liked it!

    I picked up this book and couldn't put it down. I carried it everywhere with me so I could sneek in a few pages at whatever apportunity aross. I think that this book is a Love it or Hate It type of book. If you are expecting to pick it up and have it be like something else you have read before you, will be disapointed. It is a great coming of age story. The charcthers are raw and sometimes crazy, and the prose are also insane. Mossman is a very passionate writer, and his passion pulls you in along side Dawes in his Journey. I am looking forward to re-reading the book as soon as possible.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2003

    Stones of Summer

    As a reader, a reviewer and a writer, I know well how rare the occasion that I've composed or come across a review which begins with the edict: 'If you read nothing else this year...' and yet, here is such a find. The Stones of Summer is a literary force of nature so rare in creation and scope that it simply should not be missed. At once lyrical and comical, phrased with a narrative that is like a postmodern Faulkner, the story unfolds like a dream. The Stones of Summer is a rare find, a definitive and remarkable work of art brought back for a whole new generation to read as a treat not to be missed! Steven Gillis is the author of WALTER FALLS (barkingman@aol.com)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2005

    HES A WELDER NOW AND I WONDER WHY!

    Dow Mossman has been working as a welder for twenty years, and it is obvious why. The book is a combination of The Catcher in the Rye and James Joyce, and of course, who wants to read James Joyce?! And the characters were hard to understand. At no point in the book did he lay out who thought this way or who was the good guy and the bad guy. And he did dialogue in a realistic fashion, and who wants to read about realistic dialogue? Also you had to read the book to get through it, which was extremely bothersome, because if I'm not watching a scientist's daughter and a CIA agent save the world by page 70 I'm closing the book immediatly. So if you like Faulkner, James Joyce, Shakespear or Mark Twain I'd suggest reading this book, as the author is more lyrical than all of those but shakespear. But if you like Anita Shreve..... who i absolutely love, and characters that have real feelings that show up constantly in the book and they talk about them like, 'i can't believe he left me, i think i am going insane.' then you shouldn't read this book. Read this book if you are some snobby, secular, liberal, leaning-towards-communism left-winger who thinks that poetry can explain the world. Freak.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2005

    You have to be patient

    This is the kind of book that honestly is going to be hard to get through.Even if you realize what an amazing story it is.Everything is so perfectly wirtten,like a poem.I liked the characters, and they made me think about the country and things that are unexplianable but you still need in life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2005

    Stumbling on your own thoughts

    I'm not sure what kind of social skills the people who wrote positve reviews of this book have because it's obvious the writer has none. Read the first two pages and you become to understand how thinking too much can cause insanity. I don't care how many books you've read you'll never be able to understand this one. I would equate my enjoyment of reading this (only on page 61) to reading the orginial King James version of the Bible. It makes about as much sense and flows about the same way. The night was dark, WE GET THE PICTURE. I don't need your 'bones' and stupid abject words describing nothing to tell me that. Seriously, how is a tree like a bunch of bones and how is it a murderer?!?!? STAY AWAY FROM THIS BOOK.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2005

    Give the book a chance!

    The perfect summer read. Some parts may have ended up dry, but it always pulled through with that unique, mystifying style it is known for. I recommend that you shouldn¿t entangle yourself in the logic of his prose, though, and in that respect, I probably should give it a reread, myself! At least give it a chance--you'll either entirely love it or hate it. Who knows? Maybe you'll get lucky.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2004

    Grateful Dead meet Huck Finn

    If you only read for plot or to bind with characters, don't bother, but if you can let the words wash over you, keep listening even when what you're hearing makes no sense and let the intensity and the rhythem catch you up, you must read this. At first I couldn't understand how someone with this much talent could write only this book but by the time I finished I wondered instead how the author could have survived writing it. Find spaces in your life to read a few pages at a time and you will eventually find it tears you along as if you fell into a torrential downpour of words. Just try not to get too worked up by all the typos in the cut rate printing. You'd think someone would have noticed the difference between an n or an r.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2004

    The SAT's were more fun

    I really tried to get into this book. I tried to care about the characters. It just wasn't happening. This book started slow and only got slower. The writing was so thick it seemed like no one had bothered editing it. I think a lot of literary 'wanna be's' will claim to love this book, but I found it a disappointment.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2004

    Too much hoopla.

    There wasn't a single character in this novel to admire, to identify with, to cheer on through whatever struggle arises. I'm putting this book out on the table in my next yard sale.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2004

    disappointing

    what a dreadful novel. I suspect the first few who read the original publication back in the 1970s were blind if they thought this novel was worth reviving. What a disappointment. Not only am I sorry I spent the money on it, but I am sorry I invested the time and mental effort to read it. Don't waste your time or your money on this one!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2003

    this is a lost novel for a very good reason

    I was very excited when I bought this book - couldn't wait to get home and read it. I tried; I really, really tried to get into it. But, alas, I couldn't even get past 90 pages. The main character is not convincingly realistic. He is crude and vulgar and completely unlike a real 9 or 10 year old boy. To compare this author to J.D. Salinger and Dickens is an insult to those greats and to American literature. I think Dow has potential. But he needs to hone his craft.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2003

    Purple Is His Favorite Color

    Why do all the positive reviews in this forum sound alike? Every page in this book is evidence of an author besotted with his own overblown style. Good writing means revision, craft, thought- -careful constructions of language that build an alternate reality. The Stones of Summer is simply not that. But it does feature a kind of writing that certain types of readers are continually attracted to--those delillo fans across the land who like writing that sounds 'writerly.' The less sense it makes the better, because the more sense it makes, the more fans it will have. And the more fans it has the less special you are for having discovered or rediscovered this 'lost masterpiece.' Oh brother. These are the same readers who don't like Jane Austen. And of course Mr. Mossman's protagonist is disgusted by Pride & Prejudice. That book is everything this one is not--a tightly constructed, well written, charming, witty, and very readable book--one written by a writer who must have been as talented editing her work as Mr. Mossman is not.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2003

    Has anybody actually tried to read this?

    I have to say I tried, I really, really tried to like this book. I gave it my best effort, but comparing this novel to the other paragons of early-70s excess - Gravity's Rainbow, The Sot-Weed Factor, The Public Burning, etc. - is a disservice both to those novels and this one. It owes most of its logorrhea to the descendants of Kerouac's On the Road, and like most of the post-Beat miscegentions, is a hopeless muddle, practically unreadable. Again, I tried. I applaud the ambition, but I'd like to meet the person who reads more than the 100 pages I did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2003

    One of the few that I won't pass on.

    I'm all for being raw in the interpretation of our times but a great deal of the conversation was so raw I felt as if I was going to get samlonella and die. I realize that not all of us can speak in multi-syllables but Dawes and his array of cronies left me in great desire for sentences just above the layer of pond slime that continued to come out of their mouths. The description of places was well done but that is all that kept me going. This is definitely a guy's book and best read in the john!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2003

    Stones of Summer

    by Steven Gillis (Author of WALTER FALLS) In 1972 Dow Mossman published his first -and only - novel, The Stones of Summer. A lyrical work, wonderously conceived, the book tells the story of Dawes Williams' coming of age in Rapid City, Iowa during the nineteen-fiftees. Over the course of some 600 pages, the novel follows Dawes into the turbulent sixties where he struggles to adapt to an ever changing America. The Stones of Summer met with strong early reviews in 1972, and had enough hardcover sales to warrent a paperback printing. Yet, as is often the case with literary fiction, the novel soon disappeared from the American consciousness. So, too, did Dow Mossman. At 29, three years removed from earning his MFA at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, Dow vanished, and for the next 30 years no one in the publishing world heard a word from him. Not until the filmaker Mark Moskowitz took it upon himself to search for Dow and in the process return The Stones of Summer to the public eye - after 30 years - was this wonderful novel brought back to us. The Stones of Summer is clearly a work of genius. The writing is akin to a post-modern Faulkner, at once comical and trancendent. Divided into three parts, each section has a distinct narrative and compelling tone. (The final section involving letters from Dawes friends from Vietnam and Dawes own life as a young man in America offers a reflection of the 60s so insightful and staggering as to shake the very foundations of the reader's soul.) The Stones of Summer is a rare find, a definitive and remarkable work of art and having it brought back for a whole new generation to read is a blessing not to be missed!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2003

    Incredible!

    This is the finest book I've read in the last 30 years! Once I started reading I could not put it down. Please Dow, give us more!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2003

    This is a Pure Work of Genius

    From a literary perspective I thought 'Stones' as a period piece surpassed Steinbeck's 'Grapes of Wrath' and as a coming of age piece surpassed 'Catcher in the Rye'. This is a work of pure genius. Mossman's dialogue was so crisp and powerfully interwoven within a complex shifting emotional young man challenged by his gifts and outside circumstances. Outstanding book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2003

    I READ THE BOOK IN ONE NIGHT

    Bought the book in a store Sunday afternoon and sat down to read. It took all night and I was in Iowa with Dawes at the time when as a teenager immigrant I was growing up in Michigan. This is how the natives came to maturity and it was similar to my experience. It was bringing back my youth in my ripe age.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2003

    Best novel since Huck Finn

    Mossman is the consumate novelist of our time. At least if you still have to write novel's in words.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2003

    Blakean Brilliance

    The Stones of Summer opens with prose poetry which transports you into the furies of an imagination that hasn't seen the light of day since William Blake. The pleasure of reading these magical words continues to haunt me as it haunts Dawes Williams in his search for meaning.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews

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