Stephen Dixon, a "prolific novelist and short-story writer whose humorous, freewheeling fiction traced the shocks and jolts of romance, aging and everyday life, in an experimental but plain-spoken style that brought readers deep inside the minds of his characters," died November 6, the Washington Post reported. He was 83. In addition to 35 novels and story collections, he published more than 500 short stories in the Paris Review, Playboy, Esquire and other magazines.
Dixon was a National Book Award finalist twice, for Frog (1991) and Interstate (1995). His other books include Phone Rings (2005), Gould: A Novel in Two Novels (1997), 30: Pieces of a Novel (1999), I (2002), End of I (2006), His Wife Leaves Him (2013), No Relief (1976) and Work (1977).
In the early 1960s, Dixon moved to New York, "where he worked as an editor at CBS News and typed fiction alone at lunch," the Post noted. Hughes Rudd, a colleague, sent two of his stories to George Plimpton, co-founder of the Paris Review, which published Dixon's first piece, "The Chess House," in 1963.
"He was the kindest man you would ever want to meet," Matthew Petti, a family friend who is writing a biography of Dixon, told the Baltimore Sun. "He was the kind of person who would spot an elderly woman from a block away, sprint to her and help her cross a street. He took care of his wife for many years and gave his father shots for his diabetes. He said, 'There was a job to do and I did it.' "
Petti added that Dixon, who had been a professor for 27 years in the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars, was a popular teacher: "He would write pages of comments on their stories. There was always a line of students at his door."
Jean McGarry, a Johns Hopkins professor and writer, described her colleague as a "force of nature," adding: "His love of writing was only exceeded by his love of family. Steve was fiery and impulsive. Widely read, he was a fierce critic.... And yet, he was generous and encouraging to young writers and seemed to believe that he could teach anyone to write well."