Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ron Carlson - "The Signal"

Speaking of Ron Carlson (previous post, down at the bottom), I was so impressed with his latest novel, "The Signal." (Of course, I am an RC fan, so not soooo much of a surprise there.) Still. The man can write.

(Although dedicated to local indie bookstores, I've included the link to Amazon above, simply for the excellent Washington Post review posted there. Read that, then log off and order/pick up the book at your LIB. )

The Washington Post reviewer, Ron Charles, notes that Carlson "writes like Hemingway without the misogyny and self-parody." Amen. It is one of the Carlson's qualities that I most admire (aside from his prose, that is). He writes both men and women characters with full respect for their humanity, rather than privileging one over the other, or parroting the cultural baggage of being male in this society. His stories that involve parenting are gems for revealing the depth of emotion and reality of being an engaged father.

Carlson's prose has a poetically tensile strength that is at times simply amazing; it defies description and must be read to be truly appreciated.  In "The Signal," he brings all the skills he's honed from crafting short stories, cutting out all the fluff usually acceptable in the form, so that it reads almost like a novella and yet.. it isn't quite. The prose is absolutely complelling; once I dip my eyeballs in the pool, I have to be yanked out by some obligation standing in front of face and shouting, "Hey, Mom, hey, Mom, hey, over here!" or the smoke alarm wailing because I've left the toast in the toaster way too long or the teakettle boiling to the point of a flamed and red bottom. And few authors can write the mountains the way he has in story after story, in "Five Skies", the previous novel, and now "The Signal."

And, even more fun, Carlson is one of the faculty this summer at the Napa Valley Writers Conference, the Best Little Writing Conference in the West, imho. So, folks, get your keyboards running: applications open March 1st and as Fiction Director this year, I'm waiting for your submission, yes, I am!


  1. I worked with Ron Carlson at Squaw Valley last summer, and echo your admiration of his expertise. My two favorite short stories are Carlson's "At the Jim Bridger" and William Gay's "The Paperhanger," both O.Henry award winners in 2001.

    I have dissected and analyzed these stories in 700 different ways, in the hope the technique will rub off on me, or I'll absorb it via osmosis. I'm not there yet, but I will humbly share that the story I workshopped with Ron last summer will appear in Narrative Magazine on March 8; I'd be delighted if you'd watch for it.

    Meanwhile, all best wishes for a wonderful workshop in Napa, Lakin. I know you'll have a ball.

  2. oh, yeah, those are both fabulous stories. Congrats !!!! on pending publication and I'm more than thrilled to note it and link to it from here! I imagine that, with the attention you paid to those stories, something was learned, whether you recognized it or not. Our brains are funny, funny things.

    and once again, huge congrats on placing the story! especially in Narrative, cool!


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