Devoted readers can be strange creatures: reclusive, obsessive, their eyes baggy and squinting after another night lost to a good book. They share their passions furtively, sliding a battered paperback across the café table, whispering, "You've got to read this."
Mark Moskowitz (pictured) is a very devoted reader, and Stone Reader (opening Friday, September 12, at Plaza Frontenac Cinema, 210 Plaza Frontenac, 314-995-6285), his search for the novelist Dow Mossman, is the documentary equivalent of that imploring whisper. Mossman's first novel, The Stones of Summer, was published in 1972. Moskowitz, then eighteen, bought the book after reading a glowing notice in The New York Times Book Review but couldn't finish it. He tried again 25 years later and thought it brilliant. But he could find no trace of Mossman: no other novels, no evidence anyone still read The Stones of Summer.
Moskowitz talks with literary scholars, Mossman's classmates and thesis advisor at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, his literary agent, even the artist who designed the novel's dust jacket. Although these interviews provide few clues to Mossman's fate, the discussions of literature are exciting, and Moskowitz's enthusiasm for his seemingly quixotic mission is winning.
Moskowitz does find Mossman, and the story Mossman tells of life-after-writing. Stone Reader is poignant, especially in Mossman's refusal to see himself as a tragic figure. Just as poignant is Mossman's reaction to Moskowitz's love of his novel: sincere surprise and humble joy.
Readers will soon have an opportunity to decide whether they share Moskowitz's opinion of Mossman's novel: Barnes & Noble will publish a new edition of The Stones of Summer this October. -- Ian Froeb
Everyone Into the Pool
Adult Swim at Farrago
The only drawback to Cartoon Network's Adult Swim (the best block of adult-oriented animation on TV) is that it saves its heavy hitters for Sunday night. Let's face it, you're just too busy on Sunday nights -- either recovering from the weekend past or preparing for the week ahead -- to fully appreciate the "Robotech"-gone-soap-opera overtones of "Big O" or the absurd fast-food superhero sitcom "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."
Fortunately, Farrago's Movie Café (1212 Washington Avenue) is nice enough to tape the entire Sunday Adult Swim for you and show it every Wednesday night from 7-10 p.m., so that you can watch it, for free, at both a more convenient time and in a more comfortable place, with wicker chairs to lounge in and freshly brewed coffee to keep you going. For more information (and to make sure that Lupin III didn't steal the tape in a wacky caper) call Farrago's at 314-231-3456. -- Niles Baranowski
You Go, Magic Mark!
Wash. U. at 150
Ah, good old Wash. U. One hundred fifty years old and still a sexy little temptress luring some fine minds into her learned embrace. In honor of her sesquicentennial (if you had matriculated there, you'd know that word), Washington University's Hilltop and Medical Campuses are hosting a huge blowout to celebrate a century-and-a-half of academic and artistic achievement. Dozens of events are scheduled between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., some of them on the brainy side (lectures on a dizzying array of topics, including financial decision-making and the psychology of happiness), some of them on the artsy side (poetry readings and music in many languages and styles) and some of them bordering on the bizarre. "Lewis the Robot Wedding Photographer" falls into that last category, as do the tripped-out chemistry experiments of Magic Mark (a.k.a. Chancellor Mark Wrightson). Log on to 150.wustl.edu for a full schedule of free events, or just show up and be surprised. -- Paul Friswold
To describe Michael Moschen as an amazing juggler is like describing the Aurora Borealis as "pretty lights." Moschen's fluid dexterity surpasses juggling and is better described as a strange alchemy of levitation, telekinesis and sleight-of-hand. Diverse objects slip over and around his hands like mercury, seemingly under their own power. Moschen imbues his juggled items with a life of their own, imparting something magical and breathtaking in the process. He brings his current production, Touching the Kinetics Continuum, to the Center of Creative Arts (524 Trinity Avenue, 314-725-6555) at 7 p.m. Friday, September 12, and at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, September 13 and 14. Tickets are $20. -- Paul Friswold
Carbo-Loads of Fun
This weekend, you can watch a man make an omelet in 30 seconds, or you can watch a drunk man make chili from beans and Spam. Over at the Family Arena (2002 South River Road in St. Charles), KMOX-AM's St. Louis Cooks & Entertains show offers four stages of cooking demos by famous chefs, featuring Howard Helmer, the world-record holder for the fastest omelet, along with appliance exhibits, sales of kitchen gadgets and samples galore (10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, September 13, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, September 14; $10-$15; 314-534-1111; saintlouiscooks.com). At Westport Plaza (I-270 at Page Boulevard), the National Kidney Foundation's Chili Cook-Off means 75 chili-cooking teams with wild ingredients and booths (we'll never forget the "Gone with the Wind Chili" booth, featuring a plywood Tara), a salsa cook-off, live music and kids' activities (11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Saturday, September 13; $5 admission plus 50 cents/sample; 314-961-2828; www.nkfstl.com). -- Byron Kerman