Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Towel Season

This story, Towel Season by Ron Carlson surprised me. I'm not usually one who hears the word "suburbia" and thinks, "I really need to read this story", but thanks to a great reading by James Naughton on Selected Shorts, I had the pleasure. I was blown away.
The story concerns Edison, a math genius, and the neighborhood summer rituals of parties with peers, as well as his relationship with his wife, Leslie. The action of the story is him finding his place in relation to his work and the people around him, and I think as well the nature of work and description of work. I didn't resonate so much with the suburban aspect, but rather in the metaphor he and his wife work out for him to talk to her about his very complex work in theoretical mathematics. Though theoretical mathematics has become the shorthand for genius and unknowable, it didn't feel gimmicky.

In exploring the relationship, Carlson exposes the nature of any creative enterprise--at least for me--the depths one goes to inside it, and the difficulty in relating that to another person. Even more, the relationship between Edison and Leslie is beautifully drawn, touching in a way I didn't expect. The strength of their relation, and what is sustaining to both about it, is the suprise of the story. I loved how deep Edison went in, and how his wife managed to find a way to talk to him about it that was equally imaginative.

Loved it. There's another one by him called "The H Street Sledding Record" that is mentioned by people as one of the favorites ever on the program, so I'll seek that out.

I also love that according to Wikipedia he is a collector of rare and endangered badgers. Ha. And this quote, which is fab: "I did not understand my story; many times you don’t. It’s not your job to understand or evaluate or edit your work when you first emerge from it. Your duty is to be in love with it, and that defies explanation."

And this week, Chekhov and Welty--what a great combo.


Lulu Maude said...

I loved "Towel Season," too. Have been searching out Rob Carlson story collections since then. What a treasure he is.

Lulu Maude said...

Er... make that Ron.