Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories by Kevin Wilson
March 2009, Harper Perennial
Disclaimer: I don’t read a lot of short stories. So when a friend suggested I pick up this story collection from debut author Kevin Wilson, I was hesitant. The book jacket is undeniably brilliant; and the blurbs—raves from the likes of Ann Patchett, Hannah Tinti, Brock Clarke and others—aren’t too shabby either. I’m about halfway through the stories, and so far the collection is completely living up to the hype. As Kirkus said in their starred review: “A Southern writer with a bent sense of humor offers a fine debut collection of stories, some unlike anything you’ve read before. Wilson displays a marvelous sense of narrative ingenuity. Weird and wonderful stories from a writer who has that most elusive of gifts: new ideas.”
From “Grand Stand-In”
The key to this job is to always remember that you aren’t replacing anyone’s grandmother. You aren’t trying to be a better grandmother than the first one. For all intents and purposes, you are the grandmother, and always have been. And if you can do this, can provide the level of grandmotherliness with each family, every time, then you can make a good career out of this. Not to say that it isn’t weird sometimes. Because it is. More often than not, actually, it is incredibly, undeniably weird.
I never had a family of my own. I didn’t get married, couldn’t see the use of it. Most of my own family is gone now, and the ones that are still around, I don’t see anymore. To most people, I probably look like an old maid, buying for one, and this is perfectly fine with me. I like my privacy . . . . I like the dimensions of the space I take up, and I am happy. But it’s not hard to imagine what it would have been like: husband, children, grandchildren, pictures on the mantle, visits at Christmas, a big funeral, and people who would inherit my money. You can be happy with your life and yet still see the point of one lived differently. That’s why it seemed so natural when I saw this ad in the paper: “Grandmothers Wanted—No Experience Necessary.”
What’s your favorite short story collection? If Wilson doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, check out our review of Alice Munro’s latest story collection, Too Much Happiness.