FALL AND RISE by Stephen Dixon


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Dixon's short-story collections (Movies, Time to Go) occasionally move into other heads and consciousness--but his novels Too Late, 1978, and now this book are pretty much mano a mano duels of urban sexual longing among a semi-professional or artistic crowd. Here the combatants are Dan Krin, a free-lance translator (from the Japanese) and Helene Winiker, a teacher of literature at a small college. Dan first sees Helene at a Manhattan party thrown by a mutual friend; he makes his move to introduce himself a little late, though--as she's leaving (early: a wedding reception she's committed to); he makes an embarassing scene by calling out to her from a window as she's departing on the street below. At the wedding, Helene gets sick on too much champagne, and then lets herself be taken home by an old lover who admits (and, worse, almost doesn't admit) he has herpes. She goes home to her own apartment and is awakened late by a phone call from Krin and a story about his being mugged and penniless and in need of one's night's shelter until he can get back into his own house (his keys were taken). This, which takes place over the course of a single evening, is the book's whole progress--and Dixon fans will know how quickly the minute specificity of both Dan's and Helene's thoughts and words and actions can accrete. Of the two of them, Helene is the more bearable; Dan's obsessive/neurotic insecurities are nerve-wracking (""Oh, fuck. I acted and am still acting the way I did because I don't relate, or for those or additional self-destructive reasons think I don't, to anyone here except maybe the host. So I'm provoking and annoying people and saying ridiculous and wretched things just to what? Don't go yet."") Still, excessiveness is Dixon's hallmark virtue as well as pitfall: his people keep talking (to themselves or others) too long. . .and often reveal more about themselves than they'd like. Yet what do they reveal? If this new book has a flaw (apart from its self-indulgences: notebook shorthand, dreams, pre-sleep thought-tatters), it's that Helene and Dan say very little that's interesting, running-off at the mouth but colorlessly and a-lyrically. That Dan and Helene will eventually draw close is a foregone conclusion--and the rest of the book can only be a second-by-second log of this tame prospect.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1985
Publisher: North Point