View Literature blogs Literature, novels, author, writing Fiction Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Friday, April 10, 2009

14 Stories by Stephen Dixon

If you believe what Llosa once wrote, that novels are ultimately about time, then I don't recommend you read 14 Stories by Stephen Dixon. If you like Abbott and Costello's skit Who's on First better than anything then you may find this book a knockout.

In the story Names the people in bar are named "The Guy Next to Me" and "Name?" and so on, you get the toasty (and toasting) picture. Another word could be "tedious" at least for seven pages. Typical is dialogue like this:
"Who stabbed who?" I say.
"Who stabbed who?" a man says."
"Who's responsible for all this?"
"I didn't see it."
"I did," a woman says.
"Who stabbed who?" I say.

In all the stories have a great deal of potential but they maintain a maniacal tone of non-sequitur combined with wall paper paste. I believe this can be great. Here I think the idea is ultimately stronger than the execution. Each begins to feel like a one liner, more discursive than tuned, without a real sense of pacing and movement over time. Each seems whipped off with little revision. If they're heavily crafted well, Dixon's sense of speed and story arc is radically different than my own.

The strongest stories are the eponymous first story about a sort of suicide (does he really die?) in wihch the related sound and bullet affects other people. The other, the second story, Milk is Very Good for You, is about a husband and wife who return home to the baby sitter where they engage in all sorts of sex while the kids keep begging for milk. The milk part gets very annoying -- is that really necessary to the story? After a while it all wears thin, we come to expect this from Dixon. The best parts of Milk... are where Dixon couches the actions in altered words, such as:

"She grubbed my menis and saying ic wouldn't take long and fitting my sips and dicking my beck and fear, didn't have much trouble urging me to slick ic in. I was on sop of her this time, my tody carried along by Jane's pervish hyrating covements..."

Summer is icumen in
Loudly sing cuckoo

Ultimately Dixon's stories and even this one fall flat. The jig is up way too early; the fun peters out. Listen to all of Gilbert Gottfried's Aristocrat's joke on YouTube and you'll see the tone Dixon creates. . It wouldn't surprise me if the joke even influenced the story.