Sunday, April 06, 2008
Stephen Dixon cranks them out almost annually, and I read them as soon as I find out about them. This one, ironically, is about writer's block, and Dixon must be using his imagination full-bore in creating suffering blocked writer Meyer Ostrower. Nobody who's published more than 500 stories and 27 books can know a thing about writer's block.
But with Dixon the story is always about the writer's imagination and re-imaginings and revisions as daily events progress. I think of Henry James using the Governess in The Turn of the Screw or the narrator of The Sacred Fount to demonstrate the paranoid, restless consciousness of a writer confronting observed reality; Dixon does the same thing, but with more immediacy, and much more light-hearted fun. There's none of James's late-phase obscurities or endless appositives (though Dixon does loathe paragraphs, and simply writes on and on in one breakless batch until the end of each chapter).
Meyer gets stuck, thinks having a roll in the hay with his wife might liven things up, then imagines how he should approach her, and how she might react, and this goes on with changes and revisions and various possibilities for several funny pages. The rest of the book has him trying out different scenarios to get his writing going again. Meyer is a lot like books by Stanley Elkin.
And again, and I've said this better before, I think if you've not read Stephen Dixon, you're missing out. Get the short story omnibus and open it at random and then you'll be hooked like me for life.