What Is All This: Uncollected Stories

Stephen Dixon, Fantagraphics, $29.99 (566p) ISBN 978-1-60699-350-7
This mammoth collection presents five decades of Dixon: sex, frustration, and attempts at deeper communication, mostly missed. The 62 stories evoke neuroses, delusion, banality, and everyday absurdities in deceptively simple sentences, as with the narrator of "Getting Lost," weighing what to take from his lover's apartment. "She'd see the mug and know it's mine and my favorite and maybe one day return it with all the other things I'd leave behind and that day we might be able to get something going again." There are echoes of Ernest Hemingway and prefigurings of Raymond Carver's lower-middle-class minimalism infusing tales of scrappers and scrapers, such as the reluctant union supporter in "Produce," the bewildered john in "Fired," and the alienated underling of "Cleanup Man." Fabulist offerings, like "The Bussed" and "China," suffer in comparison to more focused, dialogue-rich pieces, such as "She" or "Biff," where the line between inquisitive and intrusive is breached, then plowed over in admirably neurotic fashion. Usually sublime, sometimes sloppy, and occasionally bewildering, these stories are a testament to an impressive career spent too much under the radar. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/27/2010
Release date: 10/01/2010
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 565 pages - 978-1-60699-527-3
Open Ebook - 978-1-60699-519-8
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