“The knife never goes into the narrator’s eye”

3AM has an interview with Stephen Dixon.  It’s from the beginning of 2008, but I hadn’t seen it before tonight.  I was startled by how terrible an interviewer Tao Lin seems to be, but there was a kernel of goodness to be found:

3:AM: Your books present, among other things, many different scenarios for the future, for example different ways family members might die, and then how the narrator might feel or react. Has something ever happened in real life where your actions or emotions were “changed” or else somehow “different,” maybe “better,” because you’ve already, in your writing “played out,” or “practiced,” the event and also the possible reactions or emotions the narrator might feel after the event, for example a knife going into the character’s eye while in his kitchen or a close friend dying unexpectedly?

SD: The knife never goes into the narrator’s eye, if you’re talking about one of the chapters in Phone Rings. I would never have a knife go into a character’s eye. Too brutal. I wouldn’t even write “A knife went into Joe’s eye,” or “Joe is blind in one eye because a knife went into it when he was a boy.” I leave that to J.C. Oates and Stephen King. They don’t seem to have—in almost back-to-back stories in the New Yorker a number of years ago, trouble writing about knives or needles in eyes. But yes, sometimes things did happen that I last wrote about. In Time to Go (story and title story and one of my best stories) I did have, in the story I wrote days (finished it) before my wedding on January 17, ‘82, the character’s mom say “Those are tears of happiness (he cried at his own wedding) and then at the actual wedding my mother saw me crying and said “Those are tears of happiness.” In the story, she cries for his dead father. In real life I cried because of my happiness at being married to my wife Anne. There are other examples. But that one should do it.

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One thought on ““The knife never goes into the narrator’s eye”

  1. Funny: I could tell who the interviewer was two sentences into the intro… that Zen Gump routine he does must be the most irritating “literary” affectation since Tama Janowitz’s gum-chewing. Dixon was obviously thrilled.

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