THE HOTEL EDEN by Ron Carlson


Email this review


 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. (First serial to Esquire)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-393-04068-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1997


FictionTHE BLUE BOX by Ron Carlson
by Ron Carlson
FictionRETURN TO OAKPINE by Ron Carlson
by Ron Carlson
FictionTHE SIGNAL  by Ron Carlson
by Ron Carlson