Tunneling to the Center of the Earth
By Kevin Wilson
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780061579028, 240pp.)
Publication Date: April 2009
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Kevin Wilson's characters inhabit a world that moves seamlessly between the real and the imagined, the mundane and the fantastic. "Grand Stand-In" is narrated by an employee of a Nuclear Family Supplemental Provider—a company that supplies "stand-ins" for families with deceased, ill, or just plain mean grandparents. And in "Blowing Up On the Spot," a young woman works sorting tiles at a Scrabble factory after her parents have spontaneously combusted.
Southern gothic at its best, laced with humor and pathos, these wonderfully inventive stories explore the relationship between loss and death and the many ways we try to cope with both.
Kevin Wilson is the author of the collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth (Ecco/HarperPerennial, 2009), which received an Alex Award from the American Library Association and the Shirley Jackson Award. His fiction has appeared in four volumes of the New Stories from the South: The Year's Best anthology, and he has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the KHN Center for the Arts. He lives in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he teaches fiction at the University of the South and lives with his wife, the poet Leigh Anne Couch, and his son, Griff.
“Wilson’s little time-bomb fables have a surrealist zip, like miniature Magritte paintings come to life.”
“Geniously surreal but affecting short stories about spontaneous combustion, Scrabble and angst at all ages. RIYL (Read if you love): George Saunders.”
-Louisville Courier Journal
“Turns the genre of Southern fiction on its head…Wilson’s fully realized characters keep the stories grounded.”
“A Southern writer with a bent sense of humor offers a fine debut collection of stories, some unlike anything you’ve read before. Wilson displays a marvelous sense of narrative ingenuity…Weird and wonderful stories from a writer who has that most elusive of gifts: new ideas.”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Acute and uniformly unsettling, these fictions explore themes of loss and loneliness with fresh young insight, and occasionally with a faint rainbow at the end.”
“Kevin Wilson is the unholy child of George Saunders and Carson McCullers.... Jesus Christ is this guy good.”
“Kevin Wilson’s stories show us a world that is both real and full of illusion…He forces us to look at our own lives in a new and slightly off-kilter way.”
-Ann Patchett, bestselling author of BEL CANTO
“I’m drawn to particular authors, folks like George Saunders and Stacey Richter and Kevin Wilson…who I know are going to kick my ass.”
-Steve Almond, author of CANDYFREAK
“Has some of the best writing I’ve seen in a long, long time. Kevin Wilson’s stories not only tunnel to the center of the earth—they tunnel through the intricacies of family, love and the dark places of the human soul.”
-Hannah Tinti, author of THE GOOD THIEF
“His work shimmers…Wilson offers fabulous twists and somersaults of the imagination… As Wilson continues to dig into the texture and mystery of the world, his fiction should grow, like his best characters, in strange and remarkable ways.”
-New York Times Book Review
“To write such masterful stories takes a graceful eye, and, even more, a compassionate heart. Wilson has both. His disturbing, moving tales burrow their way under our skin and stay there.”
-Time Out New York
“Kevin Wilson writes fiction that moves so quickly from twisted hilarity to strange, delicate beauty that you might not notice—until it’s too late—that your heart is good and broken. This collection is like the spontaneous combustion one story in it describes: urgent, amazing, and on fire.”
-Alix Ohlin, author of THE MISSING PERSON and BABYLON AND OTHER STORIES
“Kevin Wilson’s brilliant debut is full of characters you won’t be able to forget and wouldn’t want to even if you could.”
-Brock Clarke, bestselling author of AN ARSONIST'S GUIDE TO WRITERS' HOMES IN NEW ENGLAND
These superb, often audacious stories rework the ordinary into surreal yet hauntingly plausible worlds, and we emerge seeing ourselves with fresh, if somewhat nervous, clarity.”
-Ben Fountain, PEN/Hemingway award-winning author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara
“There are 11 troubling, strange, offbeat tales in this collection… It’s those sharp insights that keep you reading Wilson’s unusual stories.”
-The Advocate (Baton Rouge)
“These short stories by Kevin Wilson…are weird in the best way. They are bizarre notions that are fleshed out in sustained narrative by a deft maestro...beautifully rendered.”
-Memphis Commercial Appeal
“Lush with imagination, humanity, and wit.