The Hotel Eden

( 3 )


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...

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The Hotel Eden

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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 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.

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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: 5/28/1997
  • Pages: 228
  • Sales rank: 541,672
  • 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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Table of Contents

The Hotel Eden 13
Keith 34
The Prisoner of Bluestone 54
Zanduce at Second 69
The House Goes Up 82
What We Wanted to Do 91
The Chromium Hook 98
A Note on the Type 115
Nightcap 133
Dr. Slime 150
Down the Green River 168
Oxygen 186
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 5, 2009

    Why Isn't This Book Famous?

    A wonderful collection of stories, dealing with subject matter from a high school urban legend (the guy with the hook in Lovers' Lane?)to a guy who runs a gas station. Not a loser in the lot, beautifully crafted, a great book whether you are in a thoughtful frame of mind, or just need something to take up the time in the waiting room. People who hate reading need this book, schools need this book, clubs need this book! I just wish he'd write faster, is all...........<BR/>pat chapin<BR/><BR/>

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An outstanding collection....

    As close to perfect as a collection of short stories will get...

    "The Hotel Eden" was my first reading by Ron Carlson and I found him only due strictly to the fact that I read a rave review for his new book, "The Signal" and wound up getting this one instead.

    I love short stories and I have read several in the last few months, this book is right at the top as far as pure originality and stories that put you through the range of emotions. Ron Carlson could probably write about anything and make it so magical and interesting you couldn't put it down.

    The book has twelve stories, all of which really, really impressed me. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of Mr. Carlson's short stories soon.

    this outstanding collection includes:

    Keith - a great story about unexpected, unusual friendship
    (amazing story that has now been made into a movie)

    The Prisoner of Bluestone - a man, a gas station, his ex wife and a lonely teenager (one of my favorites in the book, hard to describe without giving anything away)

    Oxygen - a college student who takes a summer job as an oxygen delivery man, learns alot more about himself and the world

    Dr. Slime - a man teamed up w/ his brothers actress girlfriend, are on a mission to find out where he's getting the money he's bringing home, why he's so bruised up and why their are so many pills over the house (one of those stories that doesn't quite make sense, then at a certain point, gives you that wonderful ah ha moment)

    A Note On The Type - a criminal on the run, learns about respect in an unusual way

    The Chromium Hook - a spooky, yet very well crafted tale told by several different characters

    The House Goes Up - a woman has an all too flawless plan to make things go her way, everytime w/ men

    What We Wanted To Do - they have a plan and its a good plan, but so far its just not working

    The Hotel Eden - a young couple in London meet a new friend, who has all the wildest stories, all the right answers and knows all the right people/places, but who is he really

    Zanduce At Second - a professional baseball player has killed eleven people now, by way of foul ball

    Nightcap - a man has a fling, an unusual fling

    Down The Green River - a man and an old friend and her son take a journey down the river in a raft, only to face a hole in the raft and nudists

    I highly recommend this collection to anyone that likes short stories and great writing!

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  • Posted May 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    one of the best touching stories in this book was keith....i love it!

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