The Hotel Eden

The Hotel Eden

4.3 3
by Ron Carlson
     
 

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Prepare to be amused, moved, disturbed. These stories by a master of idiosyncrasy visit a world where wit has heft, charm has shadow, and human beings act out all the complicated nuances of love.
In the title story, a young man waiting in the Hotel Eden discovers—as others have—that Eden is not a permanent domicile. In "Zanduce at Second," a baseball

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Overview

Prepare to be amused, moved, disturbed. These stories by a master of idiosyncrasy visit a world where wit has heft, charm has shadow, and human beings act out all the complicated nuances of love.
In the title story, a young man waiting in the Hotel Eden discovers—as others have—that Eden is not a permanent domicile. In "Zanduce at Second," a baseball player turned killer-by-accident undergoes a surprising transformation. We root for escaped felon Ray (“A Note on the Type”) as he carves his name on a culvert wall. We drive the sweltering summer streets of Phoenix as a nineteen-year-old narrator goes through an unsettling sexual awakening ("Oxygen"). In these and other stories, whether his characters are getting sabotaged by nightcaps or encountering nudists on a rafting trip, Carlson takes us to new places in a new way.

Editorial Reviews

Margot Livesey
A master of that rarity in contemporary fiction, the happy ending. -- NY Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Toward the end of "Keith," the second story of the dozen in this funny and poignant collection, one character implores another: "Make something up." It's a brief moment, but a telling one. Carlson, a short-story writer ("Plan B for the Middle Class") and novelist ("Betrayed by F. Scott Fitzgerald) produces clean and assured prose and animates familiar situations with imaginative twists, masterfully reported details and enough emotional honesty to fill a book twice this size. In the beguiling "A Note on the Type," an incarcerated criminal discovers the joy of typeface design. He escapes from prisons not to resume a life of felony but to graffiti the world with his fonts. The narrator of "Oxygen," home for the summer after his first year in college, undergoes a baffling, exciting sexual experience. By the end of the story, he begins to sense just how harrowing this interlude has been, and his insights resonate for the reader. Carlson often crams a whole novel's worth of feeling and ambiguity into a compressed form. The title entry is set in the bar at the Hotel Eden, where the narrator and his girlfriend are seduced simultaneously by a mysterious sophisticate. The irony of the hotel's name is revealed at the end, when the events the narrator has reported are suddenly cast in a new, troublesome light. Carlson's teenagers and amateur typographers, his widows and con men, are still excited by the world. In their race to understand both themselves and the objects of their affection, they spill a lot of words, an extra phrase or overused verb now and again. The occasional ungainly rhythm never distracts; in fact, it's a key part of the integrity of each story. Every character has been caught on the cusp of epiphany, and the imperfect shine to the sentences reveals just how precarious those moments of true revelation can be.
Library Journal
In "News of the World" (Norton, 1987), Carlson wryly observed the public's fascination with the weirdness of tabloid journalism by giving us a straightforward accounts of Bigfoot, our most popular urban legend. The strongest stories in his uneven new collection have this same sort of quirky sensibility. In "The Chromium Hook," we find out the real story behind that deranged mental hospital escapee who has terrorized generations of teenage couples, and "What We Wanted to Do" is a hilarious account of medieval warfare gone haywire, told in a way that could pass as a modern-day, excuse-ridden statement to the press. "The Hotel Eden" and "Oxygen" are truly engrossing and pack an emotional wallop, but most of the other stories here have a somewhat generic feel and fail to transcend the conventional, man-has-difficulty-relating-to-women plotline. For larger fiction collections. Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Idaho Lib., Moscow
Kirkus Reviews
A distractingly uneven compendium of 12 stories from the generally unpredictable author of two previous collections ("The News of the World", 1987; "Plan B for the Middle Class", 1992).

Carlson's tales are narrated in a flat emotionless voice that's often deliberately at variance with their unusual, not to say outrageous, premises. For example, there's the major-league ballplayer whose line drives have accidentally killed 11 people, and whose personality is drastically altered by his frustrating celebrity status ("Zanduce at Second"). Or the convict whose incarceration stimulates his inventive skills ("A Note on the Type"), or the military leader who debates to himself the pros and cons of dumping boiling oil on invading Visigoths ("What We Wanted to Do"). Several pieces, including "The House Goes Up," simply fail to develop their conceits in fruitful ways. And many are dominated by attention-getting specifics that are at best incidental to the story's main thrust—like the glorious funny- sleazy description of a wrestling show ("Mack's Mat Matches") in "Dr. Smile," or the amusing account of a seduction in "Nightcap," which doesn't fit very well with the maudlin, underdeveloped story of unrequited love that contains it. Conversely, Carlson reinvents with deadpan panache the hoary old horror chestnut about the escaped maniac who barely misses slaughtering teenaged lovers parking ("The Chromium Hook"). "Oxygen" plumbs level after level of emotion and understanding in the richly imagined tale of a college kid whose summer job delivering oxygen to medical patients teaches him more than he wants to know about sex, death, and the baffling permutations of simple human need. And "The Prisoner of Bluestone" portrays with deeply moving simplicity the confusion and passion of an autoworker desperate for communication with the wife and daughter who he feels have moved beyond him.

An overall disappointment, but those last two terrific stories make it clear that we'd better keep reading Carlson.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393331790
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
05/28/1997
Pages:
228
Sales rank:
301,251
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.52(d)

Meet the Author

Ron Carlson teaches creative writing at Arizona State and lives in Scottsdale. His stories, much anthologized, have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Esquire, Playboy, and other magazines.

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