In an otherwise positive review of Stephen Dixon's Meyer (which I haven't yet read), Craig Morgan Teicher asserts tht "While Dixon's jerky prose, often cast in several-page paragraphs, can be slow going, it's impossible to stop reading, in part because Dixon is so amazing at giving the sense of being inside somebody else's head."
I don't agree that Dixon's prose can be "slow going." It's usually demotic, accessible, briskly paced. That Dixon does not use his thoroughly transparent prose style--there's no forced figurative language, no frills, all of its focus is on evoking the realities of a world recognizably our own--to tell a conventionally plotted story with only the dramatic bits (those activities that give the story its proper "arc") included is what might make his fictions slow going for some readers who wonder where all the familiar narrative markers have gone. Dixon's prose doesn't "jerk." It ebbs and flows with the particular, momentary circumstances in which his characters are immersed.
But I especially can't agree with the notion that what Dixon is ultimately after is "the sense of being inside someone else's head." His stories and novels certainly wind themselves around the experience of protagonists, almost always male, usually bearing life stories and characteristics we assume are close to those of Stephen Dixon, whose activities are recounted in rather minute detail, but they do not engage in the usual probing of these characters' minds to create "psychological realism" of the now-customary kind.
Here's the opening of the chapter called "Frog Acts," from Dixon's 1991 novel, Frog:
In bed, must be late, no car traffic outside, light coming in, been asleep, up, asleep again, hears a noise in the apartment. He's on his side, front to his wife's back, both no clothes, hand on her thigh. Kids in the bedrooms down the hall. Light noise again. Could be the cat. Whispers "Denise, you hear anything? Denise?" Doesn't say anything, still asleep. He's quiet, holds his breath, listens. Nothing. Lets out his breath, holds it again. Sound of feet. Something. Moving slowly, sliding almost. Sliding, that's the sound. Could be the cat doing something unusual. Slight floorboard squeak. Cat's made that too. Should get up. Scared. Cold feeling in his stomach, on his face. Has to do something, what, scream? It it's someone then that person could in one of the kids' rooms, at one of their doors. Gets on his back, holds his breath. No sound. Lets it out, holds it. Shuffling. Sure of it. Down the hall's wood floor, just a few inches. Shuffling stops, as if he picked up Howard listening. . . .
The first sentence is entirely objective, entirely descriptive, as the narrator (it is a third-person narrator, as in almost all of Dixon's fictions) attempts to orient us to "Frog" orienting himself as he wakes up. It is not a very omniscient narrator (thus the "must be late"), but neither does the narrator/narration simply arise from within the perspective of the character. This outer-oriented narration continues for the next several sentences, although it is interrupted by what could be taken as internal notations of perception--"Light noise again. Could be the cat." Yet these could just as easily be taken as truncated expository signals: "Light noise again" functions simply to tell us that the noise that woke Frog has sounded again. "Could be the cat" does seem to report on Frog's reaction, but it's really a pretty superficial intrusion on his thought process. "'Could be the cat,' he thinks."
A fairly straightforward burst of speech then begins another series of reports on Frog's actions. He hold his breath, listens, hears nothing, breathes again. Then: "Sound of feet. Something. Moving slowly, sliding almost. Sliding, that's the sound. Could be the cat doing something unusual." While this proceeds from Frog's vantage point as the listener, none of it is going on only inside his head. It's still a way of relating (radically reduced as it obviously is) what is happening. Frog hears the sound, determines it must be "sliding." "Sliding, that's the sound" does seem to enter Frog's thought stream more explicitly, as it tells us that something like this articulated thought literally goes through his mind. "Cat's made that too" and "Should get up" also seem to be manifestations of Frog's specific thoughts, although "Scared" is unlikely to have occurred to him so explicitly. It's again the narrator's extremely compacted declaration. The rest of the passage continues with this alernation of condensed exposition and crystallized thought--"Cold feeling in his stomach, on his face. Has to do something, what, scream?"--until the final sentence brings us fully outside Frog's perspective with the registering of his name.
At the most, both the thoughts and the spoken words of Dixon's characters are recorded as if they were part of the scene of action, not as if they constituted a separate realm from the perspective of which the scene, events more broadly, are to be understood. Sometimes, as in his recent novels Old Friends and Phone Rings, the characters's spoken words are a kind of substitute for thought, a way of externalizing internal states into concrete action. You could call this "psychological realism" of a sort, but usually Dixon finds a way of avoiding the tedious exploration of "Mind" some critics would have us believe is the primary purpose of fiction. Thus Dixon's work does provide us with a vivid rendering of his characters' sense of their immediate surroundings and their ongoing interactions with those surroundings, but not through facilely thrusting us "inside somebody else's head."