Dillen, Frederick G. 1946-
DILLEN, Frederick G. 1946-
Home—Gloucester, MA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Workman Publishing, P.O. Box 2225, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2225.
Writer. Worked as a waiter.
Hero (novel), Steerforth Press (South Royalton, VT), 1994.
Fool (novel), Algonquin Books (Chapel Hill, NC), 1999.
Contributor to literary journals.
Frederick G. Dillen was born in New York City and grew up in Connecticut. He lived and wrote in California and New Mexico before returning to the East Coast with his wife, Leslie, to make his home in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Dillen's first novel, Hero, is about an aging waiter who deals with a Manhattan steakhouse kitchen crew and his own failings. He is a college graduate whose alcoholism led to the breakup of his marriage, and whose own son died from a drug overdose. The protagonist is known only as Hero, so named because he once caught another waiter's falling tray, and the others who inhabit the story are also called by descriptive names, such as the Bolivian, the Chinaman, and the Iranian. The multicultural mix also includes several gay waiters, and all of the action takes place in the nameless restaurant. The waiters, barman, and cooks work in an atmosphere of male banter and petty rivalries. Fat Tom is the corrupt manager with whom Hero tangles over unsanitary conditions. Having held wait jobs across the country, Dillen provides meticulous detail in describing the environment and the pitfalls of performing the job.
Richard Francis noted in a Times Literary Supplement review that "each chapter delivers an episode that stands alone, a well-turned short story, but as you read on, they link together and proceed towards a climax." Francis concluded by calling this a debut novel "that is not just poignant and charming but impressively realized as well." A Publishers Weekly reviewer said that Dillen "clearly knows his turf, and his first novel is intermittently funny and touching." Max Winter wrote in the New York Times Book Review that "Dillen's taut narrative alternates between the familiar routine at the restaurant and tantalizing, suggestive glimpses of Hero's past."
Barnaby Griswold, the protagonist of Dillen's second novel, Fool, also loses everything—his wife, his daughters, and his boyhood summer home. Laura Morgan Green wrote in the New York Times Book Review that the novel "is about masculinity—about the likelihood of failing to achieve it and the possibility of redeeming it."
A securities speculator, Barnaby gets involved with two car salesmen-turned-oil speculators with whom he travels to Oklahoma. When he hears his dead father telling him to "sell short," Barnaby betrays his partners, and one takes his complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Barnaby's right to trade is suspended, and his life falls apart. Broke and alone and needing a place to live in Oklahoma, he takes on the care of his former wife's sick mother, who has suffered a series of strokes, and it is there that he finally develops a moving and unselfish relationship and begins to understand how to turn his life around. Library Journal's Judith Kicinski called Dillen's prose "astonishing, manic, and repetitive, and much of it is stream-of-consciousness—always Barnaby's."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Library Journal, July, 1999, Judith Kicinski, review of Fool, p. 130.
New York Times Book Review, September 11, 1994, Max Winter, review of Hero, p. 26; October 17, 1999, Laura Morgan Green, review of Fool, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, July 4, 1994, review of Hero, p. 53.
Times Literary Supplement, March 17, 1995, Richard Francis, review of Hero, p. 21.*