William Price Fox Barry Yourgrau - Essay

Barry Yourgrau

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

William Price Fox's "Dixiana Moon" is about the troubles faced by a young man in his early 20's. Not real trouble though, since it's all supposed to be a lot of antic whoopee.

Joe Mahaffey, an irrepressible Irish type from Pa., seeks his fortune in New York City…. (p. 12)

To be fair, "Dixiana Moon" (Mr. Fox's sixth book) does have its entertaining moments as it bushwhacks along. The cultists and their activities seem authentically—and quite absorbingly—grotesque; the circus lore, as well as the inside look at commercial salesmanship and the printing business, are interesting (believe it or not). But the main character of Mr. Fox's brand-name-ridden saga is afflicted by an almost bizarre mix of personality traits. He goes back and forth between the wild and woolly and the unheroic and technical….

Beyond that, "Dixiana Moon"'s characters seem either batches of snapshot-like particulars or eruptions of clichés; its plotting strains at accounting for the less-than-credible; Joe's emotional life—a whirligig of exultations, despairs and Monica-achings—gives off a noisy mechanical clatter.

People in Mr. Fox's book never seem just to laugh, they laugh until the tears stream down their cheeks. At its worst, "Dixiana Moon" has the gusto-vaunting personality of a beer commercial. I like some beer commercials, but not as a regular diet. (p. 38)

Barry Yourgrau, "The Wrongs of Passage," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1981 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 15, 1981, pp. 12, 38.∗