The Stories of Stephen Dixon

Stephen Dixon, Author Henry Holt & Company $25 (642p) ISBN 978-0-8050-2653-5
As a body of work, the 60 pieces in this collection create a fictional world which, though often chillingly narrow in focus and perspective, manages also to be universal. Selected by the author (a 1991 National Book Award nominee for his novel Frog ) and presented chronologically, the stories contain a wide variety of incidents yet also demonstrate how little Dixon's approach has changed over three decades. He portrays urban, middle-aged male characters neurotically and sometimes violently obsessed with sexuality and partnership issues, capable of both violent, insensitive acts and gentle, tremendously touching gestures of humanity. His stylistic tricks include machine-gun dialogue and descriptions that merge thoughts, conversation and often absurd narrative into a single mind-blurring entity. Interspersed among these clipped passages are long, labyrinthine sentences that occasionally rival those of Joyce and Faulkner for depth and complexity. Perhaps Dixon's greatest gift is his talent for hall-of-mirror effects: virtually every story takes alarming twists and turns, and several contain more than a dozen tales within a single title (``14 Stories''). First-time Dixon readers may find the anthology more exhausting than exhaustive, for his style can be grim, overbearing and relentlessly male. Nonetheless, this volume is indispensable for serious literature students and lovers of the short story. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
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