INTERSTATE by Stephen Dixon


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 A mildly experimental narrative of a driver whose daughter is shot and killed on the interstate in an act of random violence. Eight interconnected narratives dramatize the lasting effects of such violence on the survivors. Dixon's paragraphs are pages long, and his tone is best described as modulated affectlessness. The reader is swept along, not with as much exuberance as in Stephen Wright's similar Going Native, but by a hypnotic intensity that replicates zoned-out road weariness and the numbness that sets in after tragedy. In the first section, the protagonist watches as one daughter, Julie, is killed while the other, Margo, survives. Obsessed, he hunts the murderers day and night, finally runs over two people who may or may not be the ones who gunned down Julie, spends years in prison, is released, does his best to befriend his surviving daughter, is shot and partially paralyzed in a holdup, and finally dies in his sleep. Subsequent narratives take small pieces of this story and expand them elaborately in the manner of Nicholson Baker. The second narrative is centered in the hospital, the third in the car. In the fourth, the man tells his daughters how to protect themselves from harm in the city; it stops before the terror begins. The fifth shows the father thinking back years later on what might have happened. The sixth, told in the second person (``How do you sit and answer questions from the police?''), stops at the point when he prepares to view the body. The last two narratives subvert the first six: In the seventh, there is no murder, but an accident in which Margo may also have been killed; in the eighth, nobody is hurt. Throughout, Dixon has avoided his usual glibness, which can be overbearing to the point of self- parody, in favor of more serious reflection. Dixon's 17th book (The Stories of Stephen Dixon, 1994, etc.) is a powerful meditation on contemporary violence and the ways we daydream about it. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-8050-2654-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995


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