Dan links to this piece on Stephen Dixon, part of which I offer here as anticipation builds for the arrival (via Bookmooch) of Dixon’s favorite book. This excerpt: on his style, and on what may be the only book I’m afraid to read:
That’s because what he’s really writing about, often, is memory—how
we reconstruct past events in our minds, how those reconstructions are
at odds with how other observers recall the events, how our fantasies
overlap and occasionally supplant what actually happened. I can’t count
the number of Dixon passages that begin with the protagonist sorting
through how a pivotal event occurs, only to have a wife or a brother or
a friend proclaim his memory faulty and then proceed to argue with him
about how it happened this way.
Dixon explores infinite alternatives to a situation and the contours
of a person’s life. He’s the writer as cubist. In a story, he’ll look
at a person’s situation or actions in as many different ways as
possible. Interstate (1995), an entire novel based on the
seemingly random murder of one of his daughters during a drive on the
interstate , takes this idea to the nth degree. Each long chapter looks
at the basic event—the protagonist is driving on the interstate, with
his young daughters in the backseat, when a passenger in another car
makes a rude gesture at the protagonist and suddenly fires bullets into
the protagonist’s car, hitting the youngest daughter in the chest and
That in itself is harrowing to consider. What Dixon does with the
material, however, is even more excruciating. Each of the book’s
chapters examines the event from a different perspective.
I think Dixon’s best stuff (that I’ve read thus far) is when he works around a specific loss – Old Friends, Phone Rings (made me wish I’d had a brother), and Interstate is highly spoken of and was nominated for some award or another. I, End of I, both good, but meandering – ? And I couldn’t finish Meyer.
I remember reading somewhere that his next one’s going to look at his wife leaving him. Melville House?