Item description for End of I. by Stephen Dixon...
Three years ago, McSweeney's published Stephen Dixon's acclaimed I. Now, the two-time National Book Award nominee revisits that book's intimate territory, tightening his unflinching focus even as he widens the scope. Dixon is still a master stylist, and the narrator's tense, breakneck reflections on loss in all contexts are imbued with remarkable urgency and warmth.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.5" Width: 5.75" Height: 8.5" Weight: 1.04 lbs.
Release Date Jul 12, 2006
ISBN 1932416536 ISBN13 9781932416534
Availability 0 units.
More About Stephen Dixon
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.
Stephen Dixon currently resides in Baltimore, in the state of Maryland. Stephen Dixon was born in 1936.
Reviews - What do customers think about End of I.?
Dixon Is Getting Better and Better Aug 28, 2006
End of I. is the third installment in a trilogy of sorts that also includes I. and Old Friends.
The middle book, Old Friends, was originally titled Two, but was rewritten before final publication, and its characters given names (whereas the focal character in the other two books was simply I. or He.) But the characters in all three books are clearly one in the same, and, one would assume, autobiographical, since they share many of Dixon's own life circumstances.
Like the first two books, End of I. is nonlinear, taking the scattershot trajectory of I.'s memories, instead, as its structure. The book has the valedictory tone of an old man trying to make sense of all he has seen and heard and experienced, but it simultaneously posits an ongoing and healthy future, however fragile it might consider the possibility of that future to be. There is much reckoning with the physical manifestations of aging, especially in the recurring struggles I. has in caring for his wife, who is suffering from a debilitating illness.
I. is also wrestling with his own regrets, self-justifications, and so on, often regarding his own admitted selfish desires to carve out time and a private space to write or read or think or carry on his preferred daily routines. An especially pleasing interlude finds I. remembering his mother-in-law's summer visits, which at the time he found intrusive and annoying, but which he now wishes he could relive, and that he could have been kinder and more understanding of her.
This is a typical kind of complication of character that the book returns to again and again. I. will simultaneously want and not want something. He will resolve not to do the thing he eventually does, and will wish he had not done it and also be somewhat glad that he had done it. Whatever happens, Dixon seems to be saying, we humans have agency, but then again we don't, and then again, we do. It depends. It's complicated. We are generous and cruel, and both at once. There are reasons we do what we do, but who knows why we do what we do?
The writing is Dixon house style, with the long paragraphs and the long back-and-forth of dialogue, and the recursive nature of everything as the characters circle around and around their chapterly predicament (for most of the chapters are thematically driven, and take on a specific inter- or intrapersonal problem from I.'s present, past, or sometimes future.)
The writing continues to be experimental as regards form, but not in any sort of annoying showy way. An artful artlessness has crept into the writing in these later books. Dixon does not at all seem concerned with anything except laying bare his character. The result is a deep and growing readerly empathy as the story progresses. You feel like you're living in I.'s head, and feeling everything along with him.
Nothing much happens, plot-wise, in End of I. If that bothers you, maybe it's not the book for you. On the other hand, all kinds of things happen, character-wise. By the end of this book, though, you feel like you know everything about I., except his name. And that feeling is amplified if you've read all the books in the trilogy.
No need, by the way, to read these three books in order. The nonlinear arrangement accommodates just about any order of reading. I'd recommend, in fact, starting with Old Friends, since it is a single unified narrative (and a quick read), then moving on to End of I., then ending with I. My guess, though, is that among readers of these books, there will be as many opinions about the way to read them as there are, well, readers.
In any case, these books reward a slow, leisurely read. There is a real pleasure in letting I.'s reckoning with his own life unfold at his own pace, and in his own loopy, digressive pattern of recollection.
Now, late in his career, Dixon has taken on and completed perhaps his most ambitious project, which, in the wake of Frog and the Gould saga, is saying quite a lot. I think that these books are an overwhelming success, and I wish them thousands more thoughtful and patient readers willing to surrender themselves to the pleasures to be found inside.
Dixon, it's rumored, doesn't have any use for the Internet, so I'm fairly certain he won't see this review. That makes me sad, because I wish he could know that, at least for this one reader in the middle of Ohio, he's said his say, and said it in a way no one else could. I couldn't think of a better gift for a writer to offer a reader. So, thank you, Stephen Dixon, wherever you are.