The Stories of Stephen Dixon
Although Stephen Dixon has published fourteen previous novels and collections of short stories, he is not well known among the general reading public. Most of his previous short story collection have been published by The Johns Hopkins University, where he is a teacher, and have not received wide distribution outside the academic community. Moreover, many of his stories seem to be academic experiments in narrative technique, as he explores what some critics have called “experimental realism”—a method by which the most absurd events are described in the most matter-of-fact language.
Many of the male protagonists in Dixon’s stories are unable to maintain relationships or to express their feelings and thus seem less like real people than two-dimensional figures embodying the typical modern view that relationships are, by their very nature transitory and temporary. For example, in “Last May,” a man begins a relationship with a woman while both are visiting dying parents in the hospital, but he has no interest in the relationship once the parents die. Such temporary affiliations are pushed to absurd extremes in “Love Has Its Own Action,” in which a man moves from one affair to another with such increasing speed that he barely has time to meet one woman before he runs off with another.
In his later stories, however, particularly in stories that make up his episodic novel FROG, a finalist for both the National Book Award and PEN/Faulkner Award in 1991, Dixon has created a male protagonist who is capable of genuine feeling as well as the unembarrassed expression of the feeling. As a result, his more recent stories are complex human documents rather than mere narrative exercises.
Sources for Further Study
Baltimore Morning Sun. April 17, 1994, p. E6.
Booklist. XC, March 15, 1994, p. 1326.
Boston Globe. April 26, 1994, p. 70.
Kirkus Reviews. LXII, March 1, 1994, p. 254.
Library Journal. CXIX, March 15, 1994, p. 103.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIX, September 4, 1994, p. 12.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLI, January 24, 1994, p. 40.
San Francisco Chronicle. May 15, 1994, p. REV8.