Across his forty-five-year career, Ron Carlson (b. 1947) has published four short-story collections and one omnibus of his most distinguished short fiction, A Kind of Flying (2003). While a veteran of such prestigious periodicals as Harper’s, The New Yorker, Esquire, and others, Carlson has remained a cult favorite at best, a status that his 2018 naming in a report for sexual misconduct with a student during his tenure at the prestigious boarding school the Hotchkiss School in the 1970s and 1980s is unlikely to overcome. This essay examines the foundational motifs that link his fiction throughout Flying. In particular, Carlson employs Edenic imagery to dramatize the loss of innocence and the postlapsarian condition of contemporary life. Innocence is fleeting in his world and once lost it can never be fully regained. Carlson’s characters must learn to deal with the knowledge of how the world works and to use their newfound understanding of the continuous play of shadow and light in life as a star to steer by.

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