Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Stones of Summer

Book 77 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from August 31 - October 02

The Stones of Summer by Dow Mossman

Summary (via the book jacket)
Forgotten for thirty years [the book was originally published in 1972], the book that inspired the award-winning documentary Stone Reader is now available to a new generation of readers.
Dawes Williams is not an ordinary eight-year-old. Even his innocence is unconventional - part mystical, part poetic, intent of questioning both the myths of his curious family and the mysteries of his hometown of Rapid Cedar, Iowa as the 1950s began.
Charting the odyssey of this wise and sometimes wild child through three decades, Dow Mossman renders the shifting prospects of Dawes's experience with a literary invention that is exceptional, captivating, and quite often breathtaking. The lyrical, pent-up exuberance of childhood summers on his tyrannical grandfather's greyhound farm gives way in the middle of the book to the dangerous - and often vividly funny - eccentricities of Dawes's brilliance and delinquency as he weathers the absurdities of Fifties adolescence in the American heartland. Ten years further on again, in the novel's final turn, Dawes, unsettled and spiritually adrift, journeys to Mexico, struggling for sanity and survival as the distress and turbulence of the 1960s swirl around him.
Remarkable in its ambition and imaginative energy, The Stones of Summer is an epic of coming-of-age that is as capacious and particular, as brooding and ebullient, as mystifying and as beautiful as America itself.

My Opinion
One star.  I was really interested before reading (Iowa connection, published in the 1970s, inspired a documentary) but I gave up trying to follow what was going on.  I actually liked the writing at times but I felt overwhelmingly uncomfortable and confused.  After the first chapter I had no idea what was going on.  I couldn't tell what really happened and what was a dream or what was the present time and what was a memory.  It was almost like short stories instead of one cohesive book.

Why use one word when ten will do?  In the first paragraph alone there was "the sun before them dying like the insides of a stone melon, split and watery, halving with blood" and "August was always an endless day, he felt, white as wood, slow as light" and "He watched the desert country porches slide by like lonely pickets guarding the gray, outbreaking storm of sky; like juts of rock".

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