A Southern writer with a bent sense of humor offers a fine debut collection of stories, some unlike anything you’ve read before.
Wilson (English/Univ. of the South) displays a marvelous sense of narrative ingenuity. One of the more resonant entries, “Grand Stand-In,” concerns a woman who joins a blossoming industry, playing grandmother to fractured families. Other stories sensitively document the emotional trials of adolescence: In “Mortal Kombat,” two teenaged boys do battle with their budding, bewildering sexuality, and in “Go, Fight, Win,” a reluctant young cheerleader muses that “sex seemed like chicken pox, inevitable and scarring.” Hints of Southern Gothicism may be found among these pages. One story, “Birds in the House,” details a bizarre ritualistic contest whose winner will inherit an antebellum estate, while another, “The Shooting Man,” finds a young man named Guster obsessed with that most rural of spectacles, the traveling sideshow. More often, though, the author tells stories that ring true, and that feature innovative plots and the wit of indie comedy. The best of the lot, “Blowing Up on the Spot,” concerns a man, Leonard, who works as a sorter at a Scrabble factory when he’s not coping with his suicidal brother, crushing on the girl who works in the candy shop and, well, worrying about what is, for him, the very real danger of spontaneous combustion.
Weird and wonderful stories from a writer who has that most elusive of gifts: new ideas.