From the Publisher
“A hip Saul Bellow.”
“The American master of the long paragraph.”
—The New York Times
“There is no better chronicler of our antic and anxious age than Stephen Dixon, and if you can read Meyer without recognizing yourself in its pages, I want some of whatever it is that you’re smoking.”
—Daniel Handler(aka Lemony Snicket)
In his 27th work of fiction, Guggenheim fellow, National Book Award finalist and Pushcart Prize-winner Dixon explores an affliction that neither he nor his protagonist would seem to know much about: writer's block. Meyer Ostrower is an aging, accomplished fiction writer living in Baltimore who one day finds himself at a loss for words. As he rummages through his past looking for material, the factual events of his existence morph into fiction. The novel is a set of themes and variations on major episodes of Meyer's life, many of them imagined: there is his death, his wife's death, his sister's death, his mother and father's deaths, all in various incarnations, side by side with childhood memories and sexual fantasies. He catalogues a lifetime of injuries (ranging from a stickball scar to a small white mark where his typewriter's "line space lever went into his upper eyelid"), worries in typical neurotic fashion about his arthritis and his heart, and reflects on the dwindling number of letters in his mailbox. Although writing about writer's block risks relying on a tired conceit, Dixon not only pulls it off, but puts together a series of quirky and powerful vignettes about aging. (Sept.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Life's two great challenges are how to live and how to die. At 68, author/professor Meyer Ostrower is obsessed with both, particularly as they relate to sex (make that "SEX! SEX! SEX!"), health, and writing. Having suffered recent declines in all three areas, he reexamines his life for ideas and does enough wool gathering to knit a dozen sweaters but can't weave a single thread of a story. Then he had sex with his wife twice in a day. No he didn't. Then he was convinced that Thursday was Wednesday for a whole day. What happened to Wednesday? Then a minor dispute with a much younger neighbor led to torrid sex. No it didn't. But would any of these make a good story? In Meyer's faltering hands, no, but in the hands of one of America's finest storytellers, yes, definitely. Dixon has created yet another quirky, irascible, deeply flawed, self-absorbed putz who is difficult to love but for whom we can't help feeling compassion in the end. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.
The prolific postmodernist (Phone Rings, 2005, etc.) profiles a writer trawling for material among family memories and fantasies. It's safe to say that the name of the writer is Meyer Ostrower, and that he lives with his wife Sandra in a Baltimore suburb; safe because this information is given frequently. It's also safe to say that Sandra is 11 years younger than the 68-year-old Meyer. Other details are more murky (we're given two versions of how they met) and sometimes Meyer flat out contradicts himself, as in his account of groping a female neighbor. An unreliable narrator, indeed. Supposedly, Meyer is a tenured professor, but we don't see him on campus; when he's not taking trips down memory lane, he's home doing chores (there's a whole section on cleaning the kitchen), napping or sitting at his typewriter (he's seriously blocked). At the beginning, he's having sex with his wife in the bathroom, but Meyer's no stud; most of the time he can barely get it up. Death, not sex, is his major preoccupation. What if Sandra dies? Will it be fast or slow? How will he die? Pneumonia, heart attack? As for his mother, "he's covered her death plenty," but maybe he can treat it from a new angle. In one section, deaths reach a crescendo as his phone never stops ringing with news of another death, some eight in all-mostly relatives but a Siamese cat is part of the mix. It's an absurdist sequence with an energy that's lacking in his dreary recollections of attending his mother and his stepfather in their final days, or his fantasy of approaching his wife as a complete stranger. He's his current age, but she's much younger, and naturally she rejects him. The scene has an inherent futility, the samefutility that dogs his attempt to write Sandra a letter after years of housekeeping notes. An anemic mishmash-for loyal fans only.