Dixon, Stephen 1936-
Dixon, Stephen 1936-
PERSONAL: Born Stephen Ditchik, June 6, 1936, in New York, NY; son of Abraham Mayer (a dentist) and Florence (an interior decorator); married Anne Frydman (a translator and lecturer), January 17, 1983; children: Sophia, Antonia. Education: City College of New York (now City College of the City University of New York), B.A., 1958. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, writing, listening to serious music, “reading the New York Times over several cups of black coffee.”
ADDRESSES: Office—The Writing Seminars, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218.
CAREER: Educator, producer, and author. New York University, School of Continuing Education, New York, NY, instructor, 1979; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, assistant professor, 1980-83, associate professor, 1984-89, professor of fiction, 1989—. News Associates and Radio Press, reporter, 1959-60. Former staff for magazines such as True Police Cases and Startling Detective; has also worked variously as a technical writer, fiction consultant, middle school and high school teacher, tour leader, school bus driver, department store sales clerk, artist’s model, waiter, bartender, magazine editor, and assistant producer of a television show, In Person, for the Columbia Broadcasting System.
AWARDS, HONORS: Stegner fellow, Stanford University, 1964-65; National Endowment for the Arts grants for fiction, 1974-75 and 1991-92; O. Henry Award, 1977, for “Mac in Love,” 1982, for “Layaways,” and 1993, for “The Rare Muscovite”; Pushcart Prize, 1977, for “Milk Is Very Good for You,” and 1999, for “The Burial”; American Academy Institute of Arts and Letters prize for literature, 1983; Guggenheim fellowship for fiction, 1984-85; John Train Humor Prize, Paris Review, 1986; National Book Award finalist in fiction, 1991, and PEN/Faulkner finalist in fiction, 1992, both for Frog; Best American Short Stories award, 1993, for “Man, Woman, and Boy”; National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, 1994-95; National Book Awards finalist in fiction, 1995, for Interstate; Best American Short Stories award, 1996, for “Sleep”; New Stories of the South award, 1998, for “The Poet.”
SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS
No Relief Street Fiction Press (Newport, RI), 1976.
Quite Contrary: The Mary and Newt Story, Harper (New York, NY), 1979.
Fourteen Stories, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1980.
Movies, North Point Press (Berkeley, CA), 1983.
Time to Go, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1984.
The Play and Other Stories, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1989.
Love and Will, British American Publishing (Willits, CA), 1989.
All Gone, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1990.
Friends: More Will and Magna Stories, Asylum Arts (Santa Maria, CA), 1990.
Long Made Short, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1994.
The Stories of Stephen Dixon, Holt (New York, NY), 1994.
Man on Stage: Playstories, Hi Jinx (Davis, CA), 1996. Sleep, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.
Work, Street Fiction Press (Newport, RI), 1977.
Too Late, Harper (New York, NY), 1978.
Fall and Rise, North Point Press (San Francisco, CA), 1985.
Garbage, Cane Hill Press (New York, NY), 1988.
Frog, British American Publishing (Latham, NY), 1991.
Interstate, Holt (New York, NY), 1995.
Gould: A Novel in Two Novels, Holt (New York, NY), 1997.
Thirty: Pieces of a Novel, Holt (New York, NY), 1999.
Tisch, Red Hen Press (Palmdale, CA), 2000.
I, McSweeney’s (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
Old Friends, Melville House Publishing (Hoboken, NJ), 2004.
Phone Rings, Melville House Publishing (Hoboken, NJ), 2005.
End of I, McSweeney’s (San Francisco, CA), 2006.
Meyer, Melville House Publishing (Hoboken, NJ), 2007.
Contributor to books, including Virtually Now: Stories of Science, Technology, and the Future, Persea Books, 1996; contributor to anthologies, including Making a Break, Latitudes Press (New York, NY), 1975. Contributor of more than 450 short stories to periodicals, including American Review, Atlantic, Boulevard, Chicago Review, Esquire, Glimmer Train, Harper’s, Paris Review, Pequod, Playboy, South Carolina Review, Tri-quarterly, Viva, Western Humanities Review, North American Review, Nitty-Gritty, and Yale Review.
ADAPTATIONS: Too Late was adapted to film in France as J’ai tué Clémance Acéra; Interstate was adapted to film in France as Dissonances; six of Dixon’s short stories were adapted in France into the movie Life Is a Joke; Work and another Dixon novel have also been adapted to film in France; ten of Dixon’s short stories have also been adapted to film; I is under option for a movie in France.
SIDELIGHTS: Stephen Dixon has published hundreds of short fiction pieces and many novels. His work has appeared in a wide variety of magazines, from the venerable Paris Review to such popular glossies as Playboy and Esquire, to little magazines with a few hundred subscribers. Some critics have seen the success of his published short story collections as an indication of a “boomlet” of interest in that genre. Dixon, who worked odd jobs for years while trying to sell his fiction, is somewhat of a late bloomer in the world of fiction; though he had been selling short stories since his first sale to the Paris Review in 1963, it was not until he was in his forties that he first published his longer works.
Pervasive themes in Dixon’s work include “relationships of couples, complexities of even the simplest jobs, and ways in which information so easily becomes misinformation or even disinformation,” according to Jerome Klinkowitz in the Dictionary of Literary Biography. A native New Yorker, Dixon often sets his fiction’s action in that city. Paul Skenazy noted in the San Francisco Chronicle that Dixon “writes about people who live in rundown apartments.… He gives a reader the irritating, wearing feel of city life. He captures that rubbing of noise and excitement against the grain of one’s inertia, that constant intrusion of human traffic. But at its best the tone is less tough than worn-at-the-cuffs, frayed and slightly frantic from observing people who let their pride escape while they were watching TV or doing the laundry.” “Dixon’s imagination sticks close to home,” wrote John Domini in the New York Times Book Review. “His principal subject is the clash of the mundane and aberrant, those unsettling run-ins with wackos or former lovers all too familiar to anyone who’s ever lived in a city.” Skenazy felt that Dixon’s urban stories “frequently have a powerful impact that, while distasteful, is bracing; and there is something of the feel of that part of life too often ignored by fiction.”
Much of Dixon’s work also chronicles the pitfalls and problems of male-female relationships. This theme is apparent in Dixon’s novel Fall and Rise, in which the leading character tries, over the course of a long New York night, to woo a woman he met at a party earlier in the evening. It is also the controlling idea behind Dixon’s O. Henry Award-winning short story “Mac in Love,” in which a repulsed suitor yells wistful nonsense at his date’s balcony until the beleaguered woman calls the police.
Some critics have found fault with aspects of Dixon’s work. Reviewing Fourteen Stories, James Lasdun wrote in the Times Literary Supplement: “One has the feeling that Dixon begins most of his stories with little more in mind than a vague idea, a couple of characters, or a briefly observed scene, relying on his ready wit to transform it into a convincing piece of fiction. This is fine when it works, but occasionally the initial impulse is too flimsy and the story fails to take off.” In general, however, Dixon’s literary output has elicited considerable critical approval. Even Lasdun noted: “The best of these stories have a certain manic quality about them, caused largely by Dixon’s delight in speeding life up and compressing it, to the point where it begins to verge on the surreal.”
Long Made Short is a “shrewd and humorous collection by an inventive and skillful writer,” commented Donna Seaman in Booklist. Dixon’s work in this collection exposes the “absurdity and confusion underlying the most ordinary of circumstances,” Seaman remarked. In the story “Crows,” the narrator is alarmed to discover that he has apparently developed the ability to point his finger and shoot something, after he playfully “shoots” a crow, which falls dead out of the sky. The protagonist of “Flying” experiences vivid daydreams about what it would be like to be in an aircraft accident where he is sucked out of the plane along with his daughter, falling interminably. Throughout this stories in this collection and elsewhere, “no other writer can capture characters so distinctly wholly by their thought patterns and speaking styles,” asserted a Publishers Weekly critic.
The Stories of Stephen Dixon, a collection of many of the author’s favorite and most representative works, was published in 1994 and shows the writer playing “intelligent variations on a few great themes,” observed William Ferguson in the New York Times Book Review. Ferguson also noted Dixon’s penchant for characters who “reinvent themselves, time and again, in a retractile language that always seems to be more substantial than they are.” In these multifaceted works, wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor, Dixon creates a “fictional world which, though often chillingly narrow in focus and perspective, manages also to be universal.” Praising Dixon’s stories generally for their depth of feeling and their technical merit, Klinkowitz stated: “Although their humor is often based on the inanity of human needs caught up in and mangled by the infernal machinery of systematics, his narratives can also use this same facility to convey great sensitivity and emotion.” Concluded Klinkowitz: “Like a jazz soloist improvising exuberantly, yet within the contours of melody and progressions of chords, Dixon uses the structures of language and circumstance to produce effective prose.”
Dixon’s Sleep includes twenty-two previously uncollected stories written by him during the last twenty-five years of the twentieth century. Klinkowitz wrote in American Book Review: “There’s plenty of well-made stuff in Sleep, and lots of deep thinking, too. One can imagine Dixon putting together this volume with an eye toward showing all he can do.” The title story, the closing piece of the collection, concerns a man troubled because, at the moment of his wife’s death, a thought flashes through his mind, “Now I can get some sleep.” His heartbreak is rendered all the more poignant by his self-perceived betrayal. A Publishers Weekly critic termed this story “powerful,” and Klinkowitz stated it “pulls all [the varied] themes and techniques together like a good repertory company’s signature performance, as a protagonist examines his feelings about his wife’s death. Are they love or just simple relief? To decide, he tries remembering the sequence of events, and in that memory comes the full panoply of Dixonian fictive techniques.” The two most traditional, straightforward narratives, “Heat” and “The Hairpiece,” are nestled at the book’s center, surrounded by some of the author’s edgier, more inventive fictions.
Several of the stories in Sleep are metafictional—“The Elevator,” “Tails,” and “The Stranded Man.” Frank Caso, writing in Booklist, remarked: “His style might not be to everyone’s taste, but the slow, deliberate pacing and self-reflection of these stories absolutely focus the reader’s attention on worries, neuroses, an even sentiments that other writers take for granted.” Klinkowitz felt that “Dixon works with language the way a painter handles paint and textures on a canvas—this way, that way, sometimes declaratively, as we’d hope to live our own lives, other times optatively or subjunc-tively, in the shoulda-coulda-woulda moods where too much existence resides. The truths of his subjects are not in their representations, but in how they are presented.”
The same distinctive style Dixon employs in his short stories can also be found in his novels. A reviewer for the Virginia Quarterly Review explained in an article about Garbage that Dixon “writes rapid-fire fiction; the action is fast and unceasing.” Once again mostly employing urban settings, the author often moves the action along via run-on sentences that imitate real-life speech and thought patterns, complete with pauses, self-contradictions, and digressions. “One doesn’t exactly read a story by Stephen Dixon, one submits to it,” claimed Alan H. Friedman in a New York Times Book Review of Frog. “An unstoppable prose expands the arteries while an edgy, casual nervousness overpowers the will.”
In one of Dixon’s longer works, Garbage, the quick-paced delivery intensifies the action of the plot, helping to create a dark and hopeless mood. An average bar owner, Shaney Fleet, has two choices when a garbage collection service tries to extort money—pay or fight. Fleet decides to fight, and in the process his apartment is burned down and he goes to jail, where he is so badly beaten that he ends up in the hospital. To add insult to injury, his neighbors help themselves to whatever he has left. The police are remote and unable to help. In the end, Fleet loses his bar but retains his fighting spirit. Library Journal contributor Albert E. Wilhelm called Garbage “a well-wrought parable of modern urban life.”
In the National Book Award finalist Frog Dixon brings together a collection of short stories, novellas, letters, essays, poems, and two novels surrounding the life of one protagonist—Howard Tetch, a teacher and family man. The stories, or chapters, are arranged without regard to chronology, so Tetch’s marriage, childhood, anecdotes of his children’s lives, and aging and death intermix, creating a conglomeration of his fantasies and memories. Episodes overlap, variations on the same story are presented, and the reader is often left to decipher the “truth.” Within the space of two chapters, for example, Tetch’s daughter Olivia is lost forever at the beach, only to show up as a member of the family at his funeral, without the separation indicated. “Events rotate in a kaleidoscope, the bright fragments fall, and the author’s eye focuses on his protagonist’s self-absorption, through chains of immense paragraphs, each a story in itself,” observed Friedman. Sybil Steinberg advised in Publishers Weekly: “Readers attuned to the author’s run-on style may warm to a cunning, sexy, audacious performance; others will find this an arty bore.” Jim Dwyer praised Frog in the Library Journal for its “labyrinthine structure, rapid-fire wordplay, vivid descriptions, and raw emotional power.” Washington Post Book World contributor Steven Moore concluded: “For readers who can see through such bad writing and relish the immediacy it offers, its vitality, its feel of catching life on the wing as Dixon’s characters endlessly try to explain themselves to others or to themselves, Frog will be a memorable experience.”
The same permutations of repetitious event and imagery form the basis of Dixon’s 1995 novel, Interstate. Through eight divergent versions of the story, a father named Nathan Frey grapples with the horror of losing a daughter in a freak murder on the highway. Over and over again the events of the shooting are revisited, each time from an entirely different perspective. “Italo Calvino and Alain Robbe-Grillet have also written novels that begin again and again, revising themselves, but the subjects of these novels are only themselves,” observed George Stade in the New York Times Book Review. “Neither of them has brought off anything like the broken eloquence of Nathan’s voice, which is as distinct and original and American as Mark Twain’s, if otherwise very different.” In the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Allen Barra commended Dixon for his experimental style, noting: “In this, his 17th book, Stephen Dixon has honed his radical techniques to their finest sheen.” Barra concluded: “There is the intriguing possibility that the narrator, in recounting the story, can’t recall all the details himself and keeps changing its landscape slightly. There is also the even more intriguing possibility that each narrative is simply a blueprint of the father’s subconscious fears for his children and his own helplessness to protect them in the outside world.”
Gould: A Novel in Two Novels presents the stories of Gould Bookbinder, a New York City college instructor and book reviewer, in a form typically Dixon’s: nontraditional and nonlinear, subverting the conformist expectation of the novel into fragments that, when studied and considered together, create a multifaceted whole. This time, the novel is comprised of two shorter works: “Abortions” and “Evangeline.” The first tells of five affairs over a span of forty years, from Gould’s first, fumbling, manipulative, and self-centered sexual experience at age seventeen, to a self-centered and manipulative affair in his late fifties—each of which produced an abortion or miscarriage. The second is a long flashback exploring his troubled relationship with Evangeline, a divorcee with a young son. Their relationship is held together primarily by good sex and his genuine affection for and devotion to her son, Brons, who is the reason why Gould fails to break off his affair with the unpredictably tempered Evangeline, who, among other endearing qualities, effusively hates New York and is casually anti-Semitic. All the while Gould maintains a marriage and two daughters, but he is insatiable in his urge to engender yet a third offspring, over the overt protestations of his seriously ill wife, Sally, suffering from multiple sclerosis. Gould is obsessed with the desire not only to have sex, but to actively procreate—generally achieved through coercion and trickery, increasingly aggressive in his attempts to block any objections to his desires, regardless of the consequences to the women embroiled in his life.
A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted: “Characteristically, Dixon… writes looping run-on sentences filled with dialogue, a style that captures the manic momentum of Gould’s consciousness. Dixon’s subject is human malleability. He excels at depicting men who try many versions of themselves.” Jim Dwyer stated in Library Journal: “Dixon has created a deeply flawed and fascinating character. Highly recommended.” And Anthony Quinn wrote in the New York Times Book Review that “Stephen Dixon’s novel seems at times to be paddling around in that stream of consciousness—sentences that snake on interminably, multiple elisions of speech and thought, a cavalier way with names and pronouns—but there is enough rigor and discipline in the writing to maintain a general coherence without sacrificing fluency. And while the book may not have an altogether reader-friendly style, its chronicle of one man’s life and loves is never less than absorbing.” Quinn further noted how “Mr. Dixon plainly is not entering his protagonist in a popularity contest; but he is creating an intimate, vivid, emotionally truthful and often funny portrait of an educated and sexually voracious American male in the second half of the 20th century.” Quinn concluded: “Given that his (anti)hero starts the narrative as a repellant, sex-driven creep, Stephen Dixon has effected a strange turnaround by the close of this remarkable book: we may not like Gould Bookbinder, but after being privy to the minutest contortions of his interior life, we may at least feel stirrings of forgiveness, if not outright sympathy.”
Thirty: Pieces of a Novel revisits the life of Gould Bookbinder, in thirty more chapters of Gouldiana, this time exploring the neuroses, regrets, hopes, and anxieties from his earliest childhood (in “The Dinner Table”) to his older years, his mother’s death, his divorce, and beyond. Actually, nothing ever being quite as it might seem at first when dealing with the evertricksterish Dixon, there are indeed twenty-nine stories, plus a thirtieth segment, which consists of fifteen additional stories, all with separate titles, gathered together under the subcategory “Ends.” The still sex-obsessed Gould may be obsessed with bedding nubile strangers, but he now displays he can be loving and loyal (albeit in his own peculiar fashion) in tenderly caring for his slowly dying mother and his wife, who, like his mother, is now wheelchair-bound, and in his relationship with his pair of sharp-witted daughters. The vignettes are connected by the common thread of sex: Gould is wolfishly ogling some female bypasser and engaging in elaborate, premasturbatory sexual fantasies—a waitress at a Maine vacation resort or a girl playing frisbee in the park—or trying to seduce the twenty-three-year-old daughter of an academic colleague, or chasing a belly dancer aboard a cruise ship, or remembering an episod from his youth where, on the way to his girlfriend’s house, he became uncontrollably aroused spying in the window of a parked car at a teenaged couple engaging in intercourse. The stories in “Ends” present alternate, incompatible endings to the novel, including variants on Gould’s own death.
A Publishers Weekly reviewer stated that “Dixon’s fiction never stops. Not only does he write lots of it … but his insights into motive, emotion, interaction, speech, and thought are as prodigious as his output.” This reviewer also noted that “Dixon’s prose can be brilliantly accurate, or draining, or excruciating, or all three. … Sometimes the novel feels vertiginously dense, like a three-hour movie consisting of all close-ups. At other times it’s simply more demanding, and more rewarding, than ordinary, ordinarily plotted novels.” In the New York Times Book Review, Vince Passaro criticized the author: “Dixon’s problem is that over a long career he has relied on [his] strengths too heavily and repeated them too often; he has turned them into mere effect. The run-on sentences, the rapid-fire but mundane stream of consciousness, the apparently frank but merely amphetamined dialogue that goes back and forth and back and forth within page after page of unbroken paragraphs that stretch as far as the eye can SEE: these devices are no longer energized by an author who has anything fresh to say.” He added that “Gould’s lascivious nature is supposed to propel these stories and give them what little power to shock they have. But the sexuality is bland and unsurprising; the cleaning up, one senses, takes longer than the act.
In a New York Times Book Review review of Dixon’s novel I, critic Adam Baker remarked that “Dixon is known for his self-questioning metafiction, and in his new novel he offers yet another sprawling, autobiographical book about alternative paths.” The book, a collection of nineteen chapters that could each stand alone as a separate story, centers on the unnamed protagonist, who refers to himself only as “I.” He is a middle-aged writer who cares for his daughters and for his wheelchair-bound wife, who is slowly succumbing to a serious chronic disease. As “I” does his best to navigate the difficulties of his life and of those around him, he ponders topics such as what would have happened if he and his wife had never met, and what it would be like if he had her illness instead. In other sections, “I” considers his professional work and writer’s block; looks at what happens when social commitments are not met; and explores the emotional cost of failing to connect with a writer whose work he admires. The “real triumph of Dixon’s work is the emotional power generated by close attention to the specificities of the protagonist’s interaction with his wife and family,” in tandem with his attempts to understand and come to terms with a pervading sense of anger he constantly feels, commented Aaron Gwyn in the Review of Contemporary Fiction.
Old Friends traces the life stories of Irv and Leonard, two writers who met as young men and who are rapidly reaching the precarious and uncertain years of late middle age. Neither writer has gained great renown, but they have made a living, and their friendship remains sound. They have encountered troubles and tragedies: Irv must care for his disabled wife, while Leonard is slowly slipping into a dementia caused by Lyme disease. Though his characters suffer, Dixon treats them with compassion as they continue to age, interact, and cope with the struggles and changes that inevitably befall them. “What makes this book so good is Dixon’s ability to invent characters just average enough that readers can identify with the banality of their pain,”according to a contributor to Publishers Weekly.
Phone Rings uses as its opening image the concept of the dreaded phone call informing someone of the death of a loved one. When Stu Fine answers his ringing phone, he learns that his much-loved brother Dan has died in a freak accident while out jogging. As the story unfolds, the reader learns of the brothers’ close relationship and the number of unnatural deaths that the family has suffered. Stu tells of his other siblings’ early, tragic deaths; his father’s hard-working life as a dentist that ultimately crumbles when he is imprisoned for involvement in an illegal abortion ring; and the dispersion of his mother’s belongings after her death. The phone metaphor returns again in an emotional scene in which Stu reaches for the phone to call his brother and tell him about an event from his day, but remembers with a jolt that Dan is dead. “This epic account of the life of a family ranks among Dixon’s most ambitious novels, commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Though told in Dixon’s traditional dense style of long sentences, some reviewers felt the tragic story of the Fine family still worked. “Violating every sacred canon of narrative construction, Dixon has nonetheless fashioned an intimate, wrenching picture of loss—how the impossibly great value of a life can be taken away and never brought back,” remarked New York Times Book Review contributor Sven Birkerts. “In Phone Rings it’s death, ironically, that gives this prolific master’s inimitable voice new life,” observed Thomas Haley, writing on Time Out Chicago.
In his novel Meyer, Dixon tells the story of aging protagonist Meyer Ostrower, a sixty-eight-year-old writer and college professor whose obsessions include writing, death, his physical health, and, most important of all, sex. Though his sex life is moribund and unexciting, Meyer often occupies an almost Walter Mitty-like imaginary world in which his interactions, disputes, and sheer presence lead to vigorous bouts of copulation with wife, acquaintances, and strangers. When not dwelling on sex, he nurses an almost neurotic fear of death, obsessing about his own death and the demise of those around him, wondering if his latest ache or pain is a harbinger of doom, and wondering how death will eventually take him and those he knows and loves. In addition, Meyer struggles to overcome a rock-solid case of writer’s block before his writing career dwindles away to nothing. In telling Meyer’s story, Dixon “puts together a series of quirky and powerful vignettes about aging,” reported a Publishers Weekly reviewer. While Dixon’s dense writing style can be difficult to traverse, “it’s impossible to stop reading, in part because Dixon is so amazing at giving the sense of being inside somebody else’s head,” remarked Time Out New York contributor Craig Morgan Teicher. In assessing Meyer, Library Journal critic Jim Dwyer wrote that it offers more evidence that Dixon is “one of America’s finest storytellers.”
Dixon is “as inventive as he is prolific, his work as challenging as it is poignant and funny,” commented an interviewer on Failbetter.com. Dixon told that same interviewer that he possesses no particular method of planning, starting, or finishing a piece of fiction. Dixon told the interviewer, however: I am a writer of comedy, drama, and tragedy. I am never maudlin. I write about the deepest things in me, fears and memories of loss. I try to get the tragedies right. I touch upon, or deal with, universal tragedies, just as I deal with universal joys. When I’m writing a tragic story or chapter, I sink into it deeply. I feel very deeply about the situations and characters I write about.” In terms of being a writer who did not publish much until after age forty, Dixon told the interviewer that although he always managed to sell his stories, he did experience some frustration at not being able to interest publishers in his longer work. “I thought of giving up a few times before I turned forty, but I was kidding myself. I never could have given up writing. It was the one thing I liked doing most. Why would I ever give it up?” Still, even after establishing his novelist credentials, he faced other disappointments. Thirty was not a commercial success, and thereafter his publisher, Henry Holt, silently ignored him, he told the interviewer. “They didn’t even return the last novel I sent them,” he remarked. Still, Dixon has persevered, and has seen some of his recent books published by Melville House. As he prepared for his retirement from Johns Hopkins University in May 2007, Dixon looked forward to leaving the world of academia behind, filing away the last student manuscript, and becoming, at last, a full-time writer.
“My writing comes first in my work,” Dixon once told CA when he was still teaching: “But to get to my writing, I first must finish all my school work. And I have lots of school work to do, but I never feel free to write, and I have to feel free and unburdened of looming work of other kinds, so I do all my school work before I do my writing. That sometimes means I’ll stay up to 3:00 a.m. finishing student papers; I’ll go to bed tired but I wake up liberated, and ready to write. I must teach in order to pay the bills. I like teaching, but I’d prefer just to read and write. I’ve a lot to write and I write every single day. New ideas always come when I’m writing, so the process of writing is very important for me.… I write only for myself, my writing has to excite me or it’s worthless, boring, and I then have to try something else; and I must always do something new. If I ever find myself going over familiar ground in a familiar way, meaning my familiar or other writers, I’d give up writing—that wouldn’t be so hard; I’ve written plenty, more than anyone would ever want to read—and try something else, or just read, walk, think, and keep my manual typewriter polished and clean for possible future writing days.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 52, 1989.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 130: American Short-Story Writers since World War II, Gale, 1993.
Short Story Criticism, Volume 16, Gale, 1994.
American Book Review, January-February, 2000, Jerome Klinkowitz, “Little Things Mean a Lot,” p. 6.
Booklist, January 1, 1994, Donna Seaman, review of Long Made Short, p. 806; March 15, 1994, Donna Seaman, review of The Stories of Stephen Dixon, p. 1326; June 1, 1995, Janet St. John, review of Interstate, p. 1727; February 15, 1997, Jim O’Laughlin, review of Gould: A Novel in Two Novels, p. 1002; March 1, 1999, Donna Seaman, review of Thirty: Pieces of a Novel, p. 1154; March 15, 1999, Frank Caso, review of Sleep, p. 1289.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007, review of Meyer.
Library Journal, August, 1988, Albert E. Wilhelm, review of Garbage, p. 173; December, 1989, Frances Poole, review of Love and Will, p. 166; January, 1992, Jim Dwyer, review of Frog, p. 172; January, 1997, Jim Dwyer, review of Gould, p. 145; May 15, 1999, Edward B. St. John, review of Thirty, p. 124; October 1, 2007, Jim Dwyer, review of Meyer, p. 58.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 28, 1995, Allen Barra, “The Tales as Talisman,” review of Interstate, pp. 1, 11.
New York Times Book Review, October 14, 1984, John Domini, review of Time to Go, p. 16; July 7, 1985, John House, review of Fall and Rise, p. 16; June 4, 1989, Jennifer Levin, review of The Play and Other Stories, p. 19; December 17, 1989, Joyce Reiser Kornblatt, review of Love and Will, p. 23; July, 1990, Steve Erickson, review of All Gone, p. 18; November 17, 1991, Alan H. Friedman, review of Frog, p. 14; February 20, 1994, Linda Barrett Osborne, review of Long Made Short, p. 22; September 4, 1994, William Ferguson, review of The Stories of Stephen Dixon, p. 12; May 21, 1995, George Stade, review of Interstate, p. 46; April 20, 1997, Anthony Quinn, “The Jerk,” review of Gould, p. 12; May 16, 1999, Vince Passaro, “S.A. S.E.,” review of Thirty, p. 12; August 25, 2002, Adam Baer, review of I, p. 20; December 4, 2005, Sven Birkerts, “Partial Recall,” review of Phone Rings, p. 73.
Publishers Weekly, September, 29, 1989, Sybil Steinberg, review of Love and Will, p. 58; November 8, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of Frog, p. 48; December 13, 1993, review of Long Made Short, p. 66; January 24, 1994, review of The Stories of Stephen Dixon, p. 40; April 3, 1995, review of Interstate, p. 46; January 6, 1997, review of Gould, p. 64; February 1, 1999, review of Sleep, p. 74; February 15, 1999, review of Thirty, p. 85; October 11, 2004, review of Old Friends, p. 56; August 29, 2005, review of Phone Rings, p. 33; August 20, 2007, review of Meyer, p. 47.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 1992, Marilyn Moss, review of Frog, p. 184; fall, 1997, Thomas Howe, review of Gould, p. 235; fall, 1999, Irving Malin, review of Thirty, p. 161; spring, 2003, Aaron Gwyn, review of I.
San Francisco Chronicle, January 29, 1984, Paul Skenazy, article on Stephen Dixon.
Studies in Short Fiction, winter, 1990, Christopher Metress, review of Love and Will, p. 115; summer, 1990, Peter La Salle, review of All Gone, p. 421.
Time, August 13, 1984, Patricia Blake, review of Time to Go, p. B4
Times Literary Supplement, May 29, 1981, James Las-dun, review of Fourteen Stories, p. 606.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 11, 1995, review of Interstate, p. 6.
Virginia Quarterly Review, autumn, 1988, review of Garbage, p. 129.
Washington Post Book World, February 22, 1981, review of Fourteen Stories, p. 10; August 5, 1984, review of Time to Go, p. 9; January 19, 1992, Steven Moore, review of Frog, p. 6.
Failbetter.com,http://www.failbetter.com/ (January 7, 2008), interview with Stephen Dixon.
Johns Hopkins University Web site,http://www.jhu.edu/ (October 16, 1997), “JHU’s Stephen Dixon Reflects on His Life’s Work.”
McSweeney’s Internet Tendency,http://www.mcsweeneys.net/ (June 11, 2002), Lee Epstein, “Stephen Dixon Week: For Intensity, an Interview with Stephen Dixon, on His Writing and His New Book,” interview with Stephen Dixon.
Time Out Chicago Online,http://www.timeout.com/chicago/ (October 27, 2005), Thomas Haley, review of Phone Rings.
Time Out New York Online,http://www.timeout.com/newyork/ (September 20, 2007), Craig Morgan Te-icher, review of Meyer.*