QUITE CONTRARY: The Mary and Newt Story by Stephen Dixon

QUITE CONTRARY: The Mary and Newt Story

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Dixon's deadpan fix on metropolitan banalities is very sure; this we know from last year's Too Late. And in the first of these stories, revolving (as they all do) around the tortured relationship between writer Newt Leeb and divorced mother/suburban teacher Mary le Broom, Dixon frantically hurls us more of those pitchperfect conversations and bar/movie/apartment milieus. But this book is more than a gallery of snappy set-pieces (the best one is Newt and Mary visiting his father, a dentist with seedy offices--and seedier patients--in the garment center). As Newt writes about Mary and Mary reciprocates and writes about Newt, Dixon's theme becomes clear: love affairs are like fiction--stories that are added to, rubbed out, obsessively changed, matters of chosen order and nuance and correction. At one point, Dixon's narrative is so simplified and tinkered with that Newt and Mary are no longer even bodies: ""The coat nods. The bathrobe gets off the bed and goes to the kitchen for a beer. Or the bathrobe goes into the kitchen for a beer. Or the bathrobe got off the bed and in the kitchen got a beer."" This constant invention and cleverness and stylistic restlessness will send some readers for the aspirin posthaste. But we're rather partial to it, mostly because Dixon's inventions here aren't really show-offy; they seem born of a rollicking, optional, crammed, and pellmell kind of jaunty storytelling, sexy and messy--Henry Miller brought up-to-date. A lot is very funny, and it's always on the move: fresh, blabby, and unpious, but for a special audience only.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row