"Maybe I should take a little time off—not just from my formal fiddling with the epistemological puzzles of narration, but from fiction in general—time off from imaginary people and imaginary experiences. Maybe I should try something 'conventional,' reportorial, nonfictional—get in touch, even if just obliquely, with the real world again."
Purportedly culled from a cache of donated papers, Novel Ideas is an unorthodox character study, a look at one writer's life from the inside. A mosaic collection of excerpted letters and emails written by the author Stephen Styles to his close friend, the novelist Alan Dodd, the book follows Styles as he struggles to write a true crime story—a story that must, in the end, compete with friends, family, and other ideas (novel ideas) for his attention.
USA Best Book Awards Finalist
"Reading Dixon's work always makes me feel smarter..." Kirk Tuck—The Visual Science Lab
Excerpt from Novel Ideas
Two years ago at the urging of his tax attorney, Stephen Styles, an obscure Seattle writer of unconventional fiction, donated his papers to the University of Washington for a piddling but, nonetheless, welcome tax deduction. These papers, such as they were, might have suffered the fate of similarly insignificant caches and languished unexamined in perpetuity were it not for the collective industry of an especially energetic gaggle of graduate students (Advanced Library Science 501) whose quaint scholarly aspirations encouraged the zealous practice of their dark arts on whatever meager materials might be at hand.
This book, the product of that industry, is a judiciously abridged version of this ambitious group's thesis project. A collection of excerpts from letters and emails written by Mr. Styles to his close friend, the novelist Alan Dodd, it offers us a look at the author and his tentative foray into nonfiction from an unusual and, I think, informative angle.
Dr. Arthur Crimmons
Department of Library Science
University of Washington
1 I would be remiss if I did not mention here that Mr. Styles was asked in advance of publication to supply additional contextualizing commentary, but he declined. While I, of course, respect his decision on the matter, I cannot feign an unconflicted endorsement of it.
Alan, that was a terrific review of Conversations. You must be pleased. I liked the part about you being "quizzical, modern, and urban." How does it feel to see your name in the same sentence as Calvino's?
I am in the dumps again this morning. This book I'm working on, the one I mentioned to you—the phony, upside-down and backwards memoir—is making me very unhappy. It's not cooperating. Also, there is Aaron (the publisher du jour) who has been hinting for some time now as diplomatically as he can that the new reality of the book business has made taking on marginal projects like the ones I offer a harder and harder thing to do.
Natalie and I had one of our talks last night. She insists on them occasionally and—I must reluctantly admit—for good reason. I have certain obsessive tendencies, and she feels compelled from time to time to reorient me. She is worried. She thinks I have been getting conspicuously and intransigently stranger, that certain psychic requirements are becoming borderline pathological (for example the antisocial inclinations, the need for serenity and seclusion). She thinks I have been slipping little by little, book by book, and that something in this latest effort of mine has taken me over some edge. (It feels a little that way to me as well.) She had an idea. Maybe I should take a little time off—not just from my formal fiddling with the epistemological puzzles of narration, but from fiction in general—time off from imaginary people and imaginary experiences. Maybe I should try something "conventional," reportorial, nonfictional—get in touch, even if just obliquely, with the real world again. She has always had a lot of faith in the real world.