One thing that upsets me about the literary world is its lack of commitment to the short story form and short story collections in particular. People seem so taken up with their book-length narratives that shorter works are getting the shaft (in the print world, at least).
So it pleases me immensely when I find good collections of short stories out there. Kevin Wilson’s Tunneling to the Center of the Earth is one such book. I’ve been mildly obsessed with / stalker-esque about him since The Emerson Review (the lit mag I work for) published his story “Death Grip” in the 38th edition. I’ve been tracking down other stories he’s published and this book seems to be the current culmination of my efforts:
I can’t pin down exactly what I find so appealing about Wilson’s stories, as they begin to seem almost formulaic in their superbness. Each story has something odd about it. One considers the word surreal, but that doesn’t seem quite right. These stories do not remain in the realm of reality yet somehow seem oddly realistic. The stories could never happen yet seem oddly plausible.
For example, two characters in “Blowing Up on the Spot” simultaneously spontaneously combust. Spontaneous combustion is a practically unheard of phenomenon on its own, but two happening concurrently? And in “The Shooting Man” a group of circus performers travel the country with a group of men who will one day be forced to shoot themselves in the head.
Things that could happen but probably won’t (Like you buying this book? I hope not.).
But my favorite story of the collection is “Birds in the House,” in which a group of four sons have to follow the strange wishes of their deceased mother to win her estate. The contest itself is brilliantly simple and the story manages to tackle the issues facing multiracial children in an unforgiving environment, under ridiculous circumstances.
So while I didn’t particularly enjoy a few of the stories – namely “The Dead Sister Handbook” and “The Choir Director Affair” – I found the collection pleasing overall…a definite must read. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to get back to stalking Wilson. I think this list is going to help.