Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Dixon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dixon. Show all posts

06 June, 2016

Stephen Dixon, "The Dreamer"

Told in third-person limited point-of-view, Phil's wife, Abby, has died and he's experiencing some linked dreams which he enjoys. The dreams take place in a high school auditorium, first with a blind date, who he
doesn't like, and then a woman, more closely resembles his dead wife, he likes. In the fourth dream he marries this woman, Dolores, in that same high school auditorium. Woven in with the women in the dreams are the plays being presented on stage, Antigone and Alcestis, both by Euripides, mirroring sad and happy endings for Phil.

Yesterday I read Dixon's story, "Movies," and noticed that people in the audience in "Movies" and "The Dreamer" behave in much the same way. From "The Dreamer," "Dolores whispered in his ear, 'This is painful. I already want to leave.' 'Go if you want to, he said, 'but I'm staying till the end.' 'Meet you in the lobby?' 'If you're there, you're there,' he said. 'Be quiet, you two,' someone said behind them. 'There's a play going on,' The dream ended before anyone said anything onstage."

"The Dreamer" is published in the spring 2016 issue of the Southern Review.

05 June, 2016

Stephen Dixon, "Movies"

In the middle of my 642 page tome of The Stories of Stephen Dixon is the short story, "Movies." A wife wants to make it to a movie, on time, and the husband is evidently notoriously late. She hates coming in on a movie already begun. They get to the theater house and, of course, there is a long line and people in line are talking about the movie, obviously an art movie. I can't tell if it's based on a real film or not. Anyway, what is interesting about the story is the frenetic way Dixon captures dialogue between husband and wife as well as the surrounding strangers. The layout style also lends to the fast-pacedness of the story, each new piece of dialogue is not set apart on the next line but runs immediately after.

For example:
"So? Suddenly travesties can't be profound?" "I mean it was stupid, juvenile, ridiculous. It ridiculed our intelligence it was so jejune and dumb." "Let's just say we have different opinions about that." "Let's say that for sure," one of the three young men behind them says. "Okay, then one of you explain to me its meaning and appeal," the man says to them, "because outnumbered like this, maybe I'll admit I didn't get it after all."

It appears that "Movies" was first published in 1980 in the Massachusetts Review. Also, Dixon published a collection titled Movies that I assume included this short story.

31 May, 2016

Stephen Dixon, "The Signing"

Barely four pages long is the story of a man whose wife has just died in the hospital. He doesn't want to have anything else to do with her or anything she'd touched or purchased. He leaves the hospital without signing any papers etc. The security guard sets out to follow him onto the city bus. The man starts to remove his clothes as they'd been purchased by his wife. He keeps on his underwear because she didn't buy them. On the one hand, we see a man who is distraught and acting out but then on the other hand, we see a man who is trying to move on with his life and that means that he has to let go of the past. He's wrangled back to the hospital in handcuffs after he smashes his head through the bus window. And, even though he'd said that they could donate his wife's organs for transplants, he changes his mind because he doesn't "want anyone walking around with my wife's parts where I can bump into him and maybe recognize them any day of the year..." It's a wonderful story told in first-person point of view and present tense.

30 May, 2016

Stephen Dixon, "The Rescuer"

Wow, this story is quite startling. A crowd has gathered and is yelling at and watching a two-year old child climb onto a chair and the balcony railing on about the eighth story of a building. Henry rushes toward the building in an attempt to reach the apartment door, but before he makes it inside, crowd screams and the baby falls. Dixon writes the falling of the child in a straight forward and almost geometric fashion. I've never read anything quite like it. "The baby falls off the railing and comes straight down, sideways, then feet first. Henry tries to stay under him, but the child hits the ground a few feet to his right." We learn soon that immediately after the accident, Henry's mind has already begun to protect him in that Henry believes that the wind carried the child away from his awaiting arms but a witness says, "'You were smart, though, to get out of the way at the last instant.'"

Stephen Dixon, "The Chess House"

First published in 1963 in The Paris Review, the story pits two chess players against one another when each claims to be in 'check'. The story takes place in the Chess House in Central Park. And, even as the player who does not own the board walks away, moves around the chess house watching other games for a short amount of time, he returns and another games ensues with the owner of the ivory set. It's fun watching and listening to the old guys do their game "dance."

My copy of Dixon's Collected Stories has a wonderful dust jacket with a painted portrait of Dixon by Andrea Ventura. 

27 May, 2016

Stephen Dixon, "Mornings and Evenings"

In the current issue, 83 of AGNI, there's a story by Stephen Dixon, "Mornings and Evenings," that covers five pages, one long paragraph detailing the "so many things to do in the morning" and evening. The story is all telling which in this case works perfectly well to keep the story from becoming maudlin. The narrator simply tells it like it is. In Dixon's usual way, he's able to mine a specific aspect of just being a human being and explore it minutely without becoming boring or repetitive. He has a wonderful style and freshness. Love the name, Dewey, for his, the narrator's, cat.

It's a heartbreaking but realistic view of aging. Actually, it's not really heartbreaking; it's only sad that it takes most of us so long to realize that aging is part of life and part of nature and that while it can be very difficult, it's not to be avoided. In my life, I long ago made a sort of peace with the idea of dying but it has taken me longer to make that same sort of peace with my aging body. At first, aging, at least the obvious parts of it, feels like a betrayal, a shock, unfair. Then once peace is made with the inevitability of it, aging is liberating. That doesn't mean that it's easy.

Link to 2013 interview with Stephen Dixon and Nora Pierce at The Rumpus

14 October, 2014

Stephen Dixon, "Talk"

Mr. Seidel tells of his day alternating between first person and third person. The POV was jarring at the beginning but once used to it, the story became heartbreaking. The form of this story is inextricably connected to the theme. The first several sentences flip from first person to third. Twelve sentences in Dixon blends the POV within a sentence but the reader has been prepared for it. "I haven't talked to anyone today since I woke up more than twelve hours ago, rested in bed awhile, exercised in bed awhile, mostly his legs, and then got out of bed and washed up and so on."

He is a lonely widow whose wife died in the house where he still lives. She had been ill for some time and lay in a coma for twelve days before dying.

He doesn't speak with anyone for long periods of time and has taken to referring to himself in the third person but within the same sentence or thought he might switch from first to third. It's almost as though he has a split personality or multiple personalities. Then it seems as though he is splitting himself into two so that he has someone to talk to or maybe speaks so that he seems not alone.

"Talk" was first published in American Reader and then selected for inclusion in the 2014 O. Henry Prize Stories. I'm afraid this story might be a story that casual short story readers might not like because it does take some effort in the beginning. The theme for me is that all people need someone to talk to and when not available people create the "reality" that they need. All in all, a well constructed story and marries form with theme.

Wikipedia page, Stephen Dixon
essay, "Door Opens," by Dale Keiger, Johns Hopkins Magazine

03 April, 2010

Stephen Dixon, "Once He's Home," and Aimee Bender, "Fruit and Words"

Read Stephen Dixon's short story, "Once He's Home," published in Boulevard, No. 74 & 75. Old man is trying to remember the events of meeting his wife thirty years ago who has since suffered a stroke. It's told in 3rd person POV but so close that it feels like 1st person POV in a seven page long single paragraph. I enjoyed reading it three times back-to-back.
Listened to Aimee Bender read, "Fruit and Words" on the program Authors @ Google. A woman and her boyfriend decide to marry, rush to Las Vegas, the boyfriend backs out and the woman drives home, stopping at a small store and has an interesting experience with mangoes, the old woman store owner, and words created out of their denotations. The first one she sees is "nut" made out of several kinds of nuts but it's when the store owner shows her the argon and zenon and air words that the young woman becomes frightened.