introducing readers to writers since 1995

October 28, 2004

Spinoza Meets Old Friends

by Ron Hogan

Last night I went to Housing Works to see a pair of Melville House authors read from their latest books. First up: Colette Inez and her new poetry collection, Spinoza Doesn't Live Here Anymore. The title piece was a fun combination of philosophy and a photographic eye for Manhattan details, and Inez's playfulness shows through much of her work. A poem about meeting Perry Como in the 1950s was written in the form of a pantoum, a Malay form employing interlocking repitition of whole lines, while she wrote about her mother using the ghazal.

Stephen Dixon came to the podium next, to read from his newest novel, Old Friends. Tracing the friendship that develops between two writers, Dixon piled one great sentence upon another to create long, cascading paragraphs of dialogue and memory. He read from two passages--one at the beginning of the relationship, when Irv learns about Leonard's past, and one near the end, a phone call with an ailing Leonard that's both funny and poignant, as disease and age have begun to take their toll on his mental faculties, though he refuses to give in to the accumulating effects.

After the reading, I chatted briefly with the folks who run Ig Publishing, a small press out of Brooklyn, and then I spotted F. Murray Abraham out of the corner of my eye. Introducing myself, I soon discovered that he'd been a friend of Dixon's for about thirty years now. When I mentioned that I became a fan when I read Frog, he asked me how I liked Interstate, and when I allowed that I hadn't read it yet, he recommended it to me heartily. He also revealed that he has plans to produce and direct a film version of one of Dixon's short stories--and he's got quite a literary/cinematic winter ahead of him, with film versions of ...And Quiet Flows the Don and The Bridge at San Luis Rey. Plus keep an eye out around the art-house circuit for an Italian TV-movie he's made with Sophia Loren, directed by Lina Wertmuller, which will have its American premiere in San Francisco sometime in November.


Abraham must not have children.

Okay that's a reach as Dixon has children and he wrote Interstate.Call me faint of heart but I found the story so harrowing and horrible to comprehend that I could only read a few chapters. It has horrible things happening to two infants and then the aftermath's oppressive effect on the family, well — a great piece of writing but that only makes it harder to process.

Posted by: birnbaum at October 28, 2004 08:31 AM

My problem with it: too many notes.

Posted by: Jimmy Beck at October 28, 2004 09:35 AM

I'm glad you like Dixon's work. I was Dixon's student, and incidentally connected Dixon with McSweeney's... and 'I' happened. Last time I talked to Stephen, he told me the sequel to 'I' is tentatively scheduled to come out through McSweeney's some time, who-knows-when.

Posted by: LP at October 28, 2004 04:54 PM

Have to agree and disagree with the Uncle on this one. Having a child, actually three, did make this a difficult book to get through - too easy to transport mine into the story while reading, but still found that difficulty worth going through to finish up.

Dixon has been well worth the effort each time I've picked him up.

Posted by: Dan Wickett at October 28, 2004 08:23 PM
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