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What Is All This?: Uncollected Stories
Synopses & Reviews
Stephen Dixon is one of the literary world's best-kept secrets. For the last thirty years he has been quietly producing work for both independent literary publishers (McSweeney's and Melville House Press) and corporate houses (Henry Holt), amassing 14 novels and well over 500 short stories. Dixon has shunned the pyrotechnics of mass market pop fiction, writing fiercely intellectual examinations of everyday life, challenging his readers with prose that rivals the complexities of William Gaddis and David Foster Wallace. Gradually building a loyal following, he stands now as a cult icon and a true iconoclast.
Stephen Dixon is also the literary world's worst-kept secret. His witty, keenly observed narratives and sharply hewn prose have appeared in every major market magazine from Harper's to Playboy and have earned him two National Book Award nominations--for his novels Frog and Interstate--a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Pushcart Prize. He has also garnered the praise of critics and colleagues alike; Jonathan Lethem (Motherless Brooklyn) even admits to "borrowing a jumpstart from a few lines of Dixon" in his own work. In all likelihood, many of the students who have passed through his creative writing classes at Johns Hopkins University have done the same.
Fantagraphics Books is proud to present his latest volume of short stories, What Is All This? The tales in the collection are vintage Dixon, eschewing the modernism and quasi-autobiography of his I trilogy and instead treating us to a pared- down, crystalline style reminiscent of Hemingway at the height of his powers. Centrally concerning himself with the American condition, he explores obsessions of body image, the increasingly polarized political landscape, sex--in all its incarnations--and the gloriously pointless minutiae of modern life, from bus rides to tying shoelaces.
Dixon's stories are crafted with the eye of a great observer and the tongue of a profound humorist, finding a voice for the modern age in the same way that Kafka and Sartre captured the spirit of their respective epochs. using the canvas of his native New York (with one significant exception that affords Dixon the opportunity to create a furiously political fable) he astutely captures the edgy madness that infects the city through the neuroses of his narrators with a style that owes as much to Neo-Realist cinema as it does to modern literature.
What Is All This? is an immense, vastly entertaining, and stunningly designed collection, that will delight lovers of modern fiction and serve as both an ideal introduction to this unique voice and a tribute to a great American writer.
"This mammoth collection presents five decades of Dixon: sex, frustration, and attempts at deeper communication, mostly missed. The 62 stories evoke neuroses, delusion, banality, and everyday absurdities in deceptively simple sentences, as with the narrator of 'Getting Lost,' weighing what to take from his lover's apartment. 'She'd see the mug and know it's mine and my favorite and maybe one day return it with all the other things I'd leave behind and that day we might be able to get something going again.' There are echoes of Ernest Hemingway and prefigurings of Raymond Carver's lower-middle-class minimalism infusing tales of scrappers and scrapers, such as the reluctant union supporter in 'Produce,' the bewildered john in 'Fired,' and the alienated underling of 'Cleanup Man.' Fabulist offerings, like 'The Bussed' and 'China,' suffer in comparison to more focused, dialogue-rich pieces, such as 'She' or 'Biff,' where the line between inquisitive and intrusive is breached, then plowed over in admirably neurotic fashion. Usually sublime, sometimes sloppy, and occasionally bewildering, these stories are a testament to an impressive career spent too much under the radar. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
An uncompromising collection of modern fiction.
About the Author
Stephen Dixon was born in 1936 in New York City. He is a former professor of creative writing at Johns Hopkins University and still hammers out his fiction on a vintage typewriter. He is also a two time National Book Award nominee — for his novels Frog and Interstate.
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