Reading by Kevin Wilson Prompts Laughter and Conversation

By Emily Clark ‘15

In Kevin Wilson’s short story “The Grand Stand,” a single, elderly woman works as a fill-in grandmother-for-hire for families whose real grandmothers aren’t around for their children. Wilson’s writing is sharp, his humor is quick, and the story is undeniably captivating.  The rest of the stories in his first book, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, feature the same quirky plots and fast-paced language. Professor Caki Wilkinson of the Department of English explains that Wilson’s writing, though humorous and whimsical, is “driven by big concerns. He gets to the heart of the world’s questions.” The book review in the Boston Globe reads, “The world of Kevin Wilson’s Tunneling to the Center of the Earth is at once familiar and new. The stories are set in a believable though exaggerated America of martial arts video games, Scrabble factories, sideshow acts, and spontaneous combustion. With their absurdist elements, these oddball tales recall the fiction of Steven Millhauser and George Saunders.”

On February 27th, the Rhodes College English department hosted Kevin Wilson for a fiction reading and conversation about writing, reading, and life. Wilson read from a short story he has been working on and answered questions from English students and the community at large. In talking about his writing, Wilson explained that he draws his inspiration from the people around him. Said Wilson, “The world just terrifies me. I’m scared of human interaction all the time . . . But I know that’s what saves us. Being there for each other.”

Wilson’s first novel, The Family Fang, follows the lives of performance-artists/parents Camille and Caleb Fang and their children, Annie and Buster, in a comedic story that ultimately asks the question, “Which is more important: family or art?” The novel has been adapted into a film, which was directed by Jason Bateman and stars Nicole Kidman, Jason Bateman, and Christopher Walken. It’s set to hit theaters on September 10, 2015.

Wilson graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Arts, and received his MFA from the University of Florida. He currently serves as an assistant professor of English at Sewanee, The University of the South.