Short Story Saturdays

Hurray! Short Story Saturday Numero Dos.

This Saturday I decided to read Towel Season by Ron Carlson out of his collection At The Jim Bridger. I figured the weather was getting a little warmer, BBQs were in abundance for the day, and I stood outside for five minutes and got the beginnings of a sunburn, so why not read a story that would keep me in the mood?
Thus, Towel Season

This story is about a man named Edison, an engineer mathematician guy, his wife Leslie, and their family’s summer. Basically Edison is completely detached from him family, their friends, and life in general. All he knows are mathematical equations and the four walls of his study. The story starts with the beginning of summer and Edison being confounded not only by the amount of strange striped and patterned towels stacking up in his house, but also by a giant project he is working on for work. His wife tries to convince him to get out of the house and enjoy barbeques with the neighbors while the weather is nice, but he just doesn’t seem to fit in because he is always in a weird haze – concentrating on his project, rather than conversations with individuals. Edison is the guy who is always two beats behind everyone else and never seems to get a joke until it is too late.

After Edison somehow cracks a joke at one of these BBQ pool party things, he is “accepted” by the group [AKA all the women from some reason want his attention, and the men think he is cool enough to be patted on the back]. Soon the project he is working on falls to the back burner and Edison begins to actually hang out with his neighbors, learn their names, and their children’s names, and all that jazz.

At some point during the story it is explained that Edison talks to his wife about the project he is working on in metaphors. If he gets lost in the equations he is trying to work out, he tells her something like “It’s a forest and parts of this thing are all over the place. It’s going to take a while.” I really disliked the idea of Leslie and Edison talking in bed about his calculations in a forest metaphor. It was kind of cute, showed them being all sweet and connecting on a certain level, but I really felt like you wouldn’t have to dumb it down for Leslie that much. She is a smart lady, she loves her husband - she doesn’t need to be explained that he is in the woods, looking at the stars, feeling scared. He could simply tell her, “I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t know where to go from here on this project.” It’s not hard.

I really enjoyed this story at first, the beginning line really reeled me in [“Suddenly it was June and there were strange towels in the house”]. Then it quickly started to die down for me. It was written well but I gave up on Edison, his wife became annoying, and I began to dislike the character names the more I read them [I really felt like Paula Plum pushed my buttons].
The idea of the towels was nice. I really enjoyed how he used such a small detail to base an entire story around. I also enjoyed that the story was written in such a slow, hazy way. I really think that Carlson did a good job of making the reader feel like they were inside Edison’s head, feeling his detachment from the group, his muddled perception of what the summer was about.

If you want to read a quick little story that will make you happy that summer is here, read Towel Season. If you want to read something that is going to make you want to rip your hair out – The Dark Tower. No, I’m just kidding, but seriously: that MUST be finished this weekend.

Anyway, on to reading!

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