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Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine by Kevin Wilson

December 31, 2018

 

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“Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine” is the name of a song by one of the characters in this collection of short stories. The song was used in a beer commercial, making the band famous for a brief moment. In the story, they have since blown the money, and after their gear is stolen from their van, they break up and the lead singer moves back in with his single mom. The story is told from the mother’s point of view, and we see her try to be a supportive mother, yet also empathize with her complete denial of how sad a situation it is, her 36-year-old former rock star son living at home, working a landscaping job.

Almost all of these stories have some uncomfortable relationship dynamic, sometimes coupled with a surreal element. The story about an altar boy who keeps passing out is fairly straightforward (and hilarious). The one about a boy and his girlfriend who have to emergency babysit for her nieces and nephews, who are “as close to feral as you can get,” becomes a kind of sociological study. A couple whose baby disappears for several years with no explanation lays bare how little else they had holding them together.

Then there are a couple stories like “Wildfire Johnny,” in which a man discovers a magic razor that lets him travel back in time by slitting his throat.

Like any collection of short stories, some of these are better than others, but none of them could be described as boring or predictable. The absurd premise in a few of them (e.g. “Wildfire Johnny”) is saved by Wilson’s ability to bring it back to something relatable, usually human relationships. They’re like little literary stunts—let me see how far I can throw this thing out there and still land it.

Stylistically, they remind me a little of Miranda July or Arthur Bradford. Very modern, shifting effortlessly from killer humor to endearing human moments, combining outlandish concepts with relatable insights. A really enjoyable collection of stories.

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