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 Providera 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.
The stories in
Tunneling to the Center of the Earth grab you from the
first line (It took me damn near a week to convince Sue-Bee to come watch
this guy shoot himself in the face) and surprise you with shocks of
tenderness mingled with absurdity. Many of these stories involve some little
tweak of reality that makes them loveable, funny, and engaging, illuminating
their often sad underpinnings. The opening story, "Grand Stand-In," is narrated
by an older woman with no family of her own who answers an ad in the paper:
"Grandmothers Wanted - No Experience Necessary." Soon she's employed by a
Nuclear Family Supplemental Provider - in short, she's a rent-a-grandma for five
families whose own matriarchs have died before their kids got to know them, or
who are too unwell to be any fun. In a novel such an improbable premise would
likely devolve into science fiction of the least interesting kind. But in 26
pages, Wilson makes this a beautiful and deeply human meditation on loneliness,
and the expectations and failures of family.
My favorite story in the
collection, "The Museum of Whatnot", involves a serious young woman who cares
for a museum of obsessively collected junk, and an older doctor who comes in
once a week to stare at the collection of ordinary stainless-steel spoons. All
of the characters inthese stories are lonely; each story is about
finding a way to become a little less lonely – in the most unusual ways.
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.
Time Out (New York)
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.
Louisville Courier Journal
Geniously surreal but affecting short stories about spontaneous combustion, Scrabble and angst at all ages.
"[A] captivating debut ...while Wilson has trouble wrapping up a few stories...most are fresh and darkly comedic in a Sam Lipsyte way.
The Washington Post Tunneling to the Center of the Earth gets under your skin…Wilson's little time-bomb fables have a surrealist zip, like miniature Magritte paintings come to life.
Weird and wonderful stories from a writer who has that most elusive of gifts: new ideas.
Atmospheric Disturbances is at once a moving love story, a dark comedy, a psychological thriller, and a deeply disturbing portrait of a fracturing mind.
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