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Reading Group Guide for Hunger and Other Stories by Ian Randall Wilson

Hunger and Other Stories

Author:  Ian Randall Wilson

Publisher:   Hollyridge Press, 2000


Available in:
Hardcover, 200 pages. $23.95
(ISBN 0-09752573-1-5)

Softcover, 200 pages. $12.95
(ISBN 0-9676003-0-8)

Genre:   Fiction


In his debut collection, Hunger and Other Stories, Ian Randall Wilson’s characters are driven by intense yearning to satisfy their basic human desires.  Here are stories of fathers and sons who can't get along, people using friendship as career advancement, lovers for whom even sex isn't a way of communicating.  In “Hunger,” the title story, Rick brutally categorizes his sex partners, keeping a running score. Still he holds an image of an idealized lover who will solve everything with love. Rick returns in the story “Special Dignity.”   He spends his nights in a sushi bar with Japanese friends who are as foreign to this country as he is to himself. He tries to reassure his image in a mirror broken into “twelve faces of decline” that “everything is going to be fine” but we recognize the lie. If Wilson's characters do get close to what they want, gratification comes at a high price as in the suspicious deaths of the stories “A Wire Man” and “I'm Invisible.  I'm Safe.  I'm Magic.”  Finally, there is no real satisfaction for anyone, just “a damp towel on one of the chairs and a trail of small footprints that led out the door”; a man at a red light watching a laughing bloodied woman as he begs anyone to explain it to him, “now, hurry, because the light is changing and the cars behind me are about to blow their horns.”

 Recommended by 

“This amazing use of language, and clarity of description, compels the reader on.”

 Author Biography 

Ian Randall Wilson’s short stories and poetry have appeared in many journals including The New Mexico Humanities Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Mid-American Review , and the North American Review.  He is the winner of the 1994 Cera Foundation Poetry Award.   He lives in Los Angeles, California.

 Topics to Consider 

  1. In “A Wire Man,” how does the death of Emmanuel affect the relationship between the father and the son? In what ways are father and son more like than unlike each other? Will the narrator repeat the faults of his father?
  2. What fears does a person like the narrator of “Hunger” seem to have? Can you describe his relationship with women? Describe his idealized woman? Does she exist?
  3. In “Thanksgiving,” is this a close-knit family? What is Robert's position in the family? What does Robert learn from his grandfather? What does he learn from the trip? What does he learn about himself?
  4. In “Traction,” what has happened in Michael's life to turn him into a crack addict? How can we explain how Paula has avoided the same fate? Does the story tell us that even love is not enough or is there a different message? And if so, what is the story saying?
  5. In “Special Dignity,” when Rick tries to reassure his image in a mirror broken into “twelve faces of decline” that “everything is going to be fine” [p78.] do we believe him? How is Rick's situation similar to that of the sushi chefs? What might any of us tell or do for a friend like Rick?
  6. In “Loose Connections,” are Jeffrey and Stan and Elise really friends? Can you describe the basis of their relationship? Can you name all of Stan's films? From their titles, does he seem to be an important filmmaker? What does the story finally say about the nature of friendship? Is this particular to Los Angeles, or does it happen everywhere?
  7. In “About the Pulp,” what is the relationship between David and Marx? David is telling a story that happened 10 years before, what is his attitude toward Marx after all that time? Based on Marx's behavior, will he ever allow David to make a presentation or will David always do the work and Marx take all the glory? After David sees his reflection in the wood door in the final paragraph of the story, what will be his next move?
  8. In “Frat Boy,” how are memories of past glories affecting Rick's life in the present? Was going to the reunion a good idea for him? What does he finally learn about his friends and himself at the story's end?
  9. In “Mating Season For Ducks,” describe Ben's relationship with Ellen and how it seems to have changed? Does one or the other seem to be at fault? And if so, how? What is going on in the scene with the friend and the guns? Is Ben in jeopardy?
  10. In “I'm invisible. I'm Safe. I'm Magic.” what role does music play in the story? If the narrator had been a banker rather than a violist would his relationship with his son be any different? Who, ultimately is responsible for the Steven's death? Did the father run him down?
  11. In “Moving on to the Prone Float,” do we believe that the narrator is as big a physical coward as he claims to be? First-person narrators may not always tell the truth, could there have been more to the confrontation between the narrator and Mr. Horrowitz than he lets on, and what might that be? What are the similarities and differences in the relationship of this father and son and some of the fathers and sons in the other stories?

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