Tunneling to the Center of the Earth
by Kevin Wilson
Ecco 2009 $13.99
I was curious about the cover of Kevin Wilson's collection of short stories, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth. It shows the pieces of a model car, and I wondered what that had to do with tunneling. But then I read the story "Go, Fight, Win" and it all became clear.
This is a terrific collection, filled with Wilson's dry wit and twisted sensibilities. Just kidding about the "twisted" thing, but there are some pretty odd characters here: the woman who works as a stand-in grandmother, the recent graduate who lives underground, the guy who calculates worst-case scenarios. There are eleven stories here, not counting the "P.S." section that includes Kevin's story about how he became a writer, and an interview that's also pretty funny.
One of my favorites is "The Museum of Whatnot" about a woman who leaves her novelist boyfriend and becomes a museum dedicated to junk. Er, collectibles. Given that she dreads ownership of things herself--she makes exceptions if something can be useful--her job is ironic. And she herself may be on her way to becoming a collector because near the end of the story, when the elderly doctor who has been flirting with her gives her a gift of a barrette, it turns out that she has others.
The opening story, "Grand Stand-in," is another favorite. The narrator is employed as a stand-in grandmother, and it occurs to me that it could make a reality TV show. For various reasons, parents hire her to be the grandmother that their children need. Sometimes it's because the actual grandmother has recently died, and occasionally, as in the central incident in the story, there are other reasons.
But all the stories in this collection are rewarding. Expect to hear more from Kevin Wilson.