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08/03/2006

Comments

Andrew Palmer

Well put, Dan. Dixon's "word pranks" are all used for a specific and serious purpose, and so probably shouldn't be called pranks at all. I do take issue with the following, though:

"In fact, while Dixon's fiction could hardly be called plot-based in a conventional sense, most of the emphasis is on activity and behavior--characters are called to the phone, take walks, move around the house, talk to one another."

I think you sell the interior aspect of Dixon's narration short. It's true that there is a lot of talking, walking, working, playing, etc. in Dixon's work, but there is also a lot of thinking. The following is from End of I.:

"She wants to go. Fine, let her. But he doesn't want her to. What does he want? Some time for himself, some easing of the work he does for her and all his other work, but he doesn't want her to go. . . . Why doesn't he want her to go? Ask yourself that, ask it, which he thinks he did but he'll do again: why?"

This is about as close to thought as prose can take us. You're right that Dixon abstains from typically shallow psychological authorial "probing," but we're often made privy to the self-probing of his characters.

Moreover, Dixon's action is usually presented to us as somehow filtered through the mind of a character--and not just as a frame of reference. Sometimes a character will posit entire scenarios that never--or so we can only assume--"actually" happen. Often he'll run through a series of such scenarios, resulting in the variations you talk about (in, for example, Gould and Interstate)--the same premise unfolding into entirely different stories. And the interior aspect of these stories is manifested, it seems to me, on the surface of their tellings. Run-on or fragmentary sentences, extremely long paragraphs, sudden chronological shifts, snap-backs to a foundational reality--all attest to the fiction's *thought* aspect.

What's even more interesting in Dixon is that the protagonists are themselves often writers. So we'll get stories or chapters that start with the writer sitting at his typewriter, thinking about what to write about, or starting to write something and then deciding to write about something else, or about the same thing but in a different way; this is another way we get those variations. Often, not only is thought conflated with speech, as you pointed out, but thought is conflated with speech is conflated with writing. This confusion is drawn attention to most playfully-- and most rewardingly, I think--in Dixon's two "I." books. The passage I quoted, for example, has the texture of speech, the insularity of thought, and yet may actually be a written artifact of the writer-protagonist. Consider that Dixon himself is a writer, and the echo chamber becomes even more dizzying and fun.

Dan Green

Andrew: Actually, I don't think the passage you quote takes us very close to thought at all. It's more a summation of what the character is thinking, combined with what could be called self-dialogue. It's like talking to oneself, which isn't really what I would characterize as "thinking" in the more deeply interior sense.

Same think with the "scenarios." These are more like prose compositions than manifestations of spontaneous thought.

I agree with you that Dixon's work creates an "echo chamber" that is "dizzying and fun." I find many of his extended disquistions hilarious.

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