Stephen Dixon Old Friends

ISBN 13: 9780974960920

Old Friends

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9780974960920: Old Friends
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A Village Voice Best Book of 2004, this stunning and often hilarious tour-de-force by the master of the American avant-garde traces the friendship of two writers over the course of a lifetime.

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About the Author:

Stephen Dixon is the author of 26 books of fiction, including National Book Award-nominations for FROG and INTERSTATE. His short fiction has won every major literary award, as well as honors from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is on the faculty of Johns Hopkins University.

Review:

"Did you ever want to shake off a novel the way a retriever shakes off pond water? It's not that it's bad, it's just that some writers are able, in a mere 200 pages or so, to rewire your circuitry in a way that makes you unfit for your own life. Stephen Dixon is such a writer, and he can do it in a short story as well. His secret? Dixon writes so close to real life that you can almost play by his rules. His characters often live on the brink but never, miraculously, fall off -- like Irv and Leonard, both writers, in this new novel. When the novel opens, they're in early middle age. Leonard is loveably pathetic; he hasn't had a job since he was 15. He rarely leaves the house except to walk the dog and spends all day writing fiction that's published, once in a while, in literary magazines. Both are the opposite of the star-studded clan that includes Norman Mailer and Martin Amis. They type in anonymity and are not above living off women, whom they are also not above (in Leonard's case) cheating on. Leonard has a degenerative condition that works on his bowels and his mental agility; Irv marries a woman who after several years is wheelchair bound. The two geezers' friendship continues via letters and phone calls, all recorded by Dixon. The novel has a great case of logorrhea; it could be read aloud, like a one-act play. Irv and Leonard are boring, as people are most of the time. Why, then, isn't the novel?"
--Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"Two writers aver their friendship through the infrequent exchanges that compose this beautiful, restrained book. Grafs (most represent a phone call) are long, but not long enough when one begins "Twelve years after," and suddenly babies are born, wives discarded. In the last 70 pages (a single day), Dixon stretches time with a Memento-like flourish ('Before that,' repeated), building back and up to Irv's visit to Lenny at the dementia clinic. Lenny urges Irv to steal his material 'cause he's at 'What happened to my life?,' admittedly, a 'lousy line, but what has to be said.' It's a rare moment of pathos—one Dixon's earned."
--The Village Voice

"In this deeply empathic novel, avant-garde veteran Dixon follows the lives of two writers from the time they meet as young men until late middle age. Neither Irv nor Leonard has achieved any great fame, and though there's a good deal of writerly chatter, it's really background music to the story of the daily struggles of two aging men and their families. Their lives are tragic, but not dramatically so-Leonard slowly fades into Lyme disease-induced dementia while Irv is busy caring for his crippled wife. 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. Typical of Dixon's work, the book is not divided into chapters, and the paragraphs stretch for many pages, often beginning with phrases like "About a year later" or "Before that," which account for very large or very small shifts in time. The last chronological events are revealed early on, and the gaps are filled in through letters, phone calls and meetings, which somewhat confusingly skip through the years. But like a hip Saul Bellow, Dixon seems to cover every facet of aging in America, from the waning of sexual vitality to the vulgarity of watching friends deteriorate and die in old age, all rendered with generous compassion for the suffering of mostly average people."
--Publishers Weekly

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Stephen Dixon
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