Interstate

Stephen Dixon, Author
Stephen Dixon, Author Henry Holt & Company $25 (374p) ISBN 978-0-8050-2654-2
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-8050-5028-8
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Dixon's 1991 novel, Frog, earned him NBA and PEN/Faulkner nominations. His latest, Interstate, is equally distinctive and imaginative in portraying human peculiarities and the search for order in the seemingly irrational and meaningless contemporary American universe. The novel brilliantly explores the alterations of memory, trauma and guilt in parents whose children have been casualties of violence. Like all of Dixon's work, it is a demanding read; the edgy, insistent, run-on dialogue, in particular, requires focused attention. The story is told eight times. While the inciting incident remains the same, with each retelling, new dimensions are added to or subtracted from the plot and characters. The question Dixon raises is what really haunts us: What would you do if the unthinkable happened? The critical event is this: a father is driving home on the highway with his little girls in the back seat; some men in a minivan drive up alongside and shoot through the window, killing one of the girls. In offering different scenarios from this point on, Dixon challenges the reader to leap imaginatively into the experience. One father risks his marriage, his relationship with his remaining child and his freedom to find the killer. Another makes his dead child's memory into a religion, praying the hospital will tell him ``she's saved,'' although he knows she's dead. With each variation Dixon implicitly asks: How can you be sure the incident happened the way you remember, or the way you've been told? Reading Interstate is like being a passenger in a car speeding along the highway of the mind, swerving in and out of what is real and imagined, on the edge of losing control yet not losing it, because the driver knows what he's doing. With characteristic directness, Dixon's crisis-mode narrative runs together in one seemingly jumbled, breathless rush, with evocative thoughts causing memories to surface not just in the minds of the narrators but in the reader's mind as well. Jarringly perceptive and darkly compelling, this novel will confirm Dixon as a writer of stature. Author tour. (May)
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