A Kind of Flying

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Let’s waste no time: there aren’t many better story writers around than Ron Carlson. In A Kind of Flying: Selected Stories, culled by the author from three of his earlier volumes of stories, readers are given all the evidence needed of Carlson’s talent. These stories document the curious ways many live the contemporary American life, and illuminate the varying strains of humor, compassion, pathos, and sadness that inform that life.

One of Carlson’s classic stories is “The H Street Sledding Record,” which celebrates the sorts of rituals devised to mark significant time and to give meaning to our days. In this story, a husband and father brings wonder to his family’s Christmas every year by hurling horse manure onto the roof of their house each Christmas Eve, providing observable proof of Santa Claus and his fleet of reindeer.

In another Carlson story—or set of stories, actually—Carlson takes off on an American myth and turns the tale into a storytelling opportunity for a most unlikely storyteller. In “Bigfoot Stole My Wife” and its companion piece, “I am Bigfoot,” readers hear first from a deserted, luckless husband who accounts for his wife’s disappearance from a troubled marriage by chalking it up to Bigfoot, who has supposedly made off with his wife. The husband tells his tale in the form of a tabloid exposé, and in his voice readers learn the sad traces of denial. In the second story, Carlson lets...

(The entire section is 442 words.)