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Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,546 Ratings  ·  277 Reviews
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 sort ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Harper Perennial (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Terence Hawkins
Apr 21, 2010 Terence Hawkins rated it it was amazing
After I read the first entry in this remarkable collection-----which, incidentally, concerns the moral and emotional conflicts of a professional rent-a-grandma------I put the book down. Only one story a night, Terry. Pace yourself, man. This is too good to read all at once.

It really is. Wilson has a remarkable ability to get us into the heads of everyday people in surreal situations. A guy who works in a scrabble-piece factory, terrified that he will spontaneously combust, as his parents did. Ha
May 20, 2016 0rkun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Etgar Keret'i anımsatan birçok öykü var içinde. 1-2 tanesinden sıkıldım, bir yıldızı da oradan kırıyorum.
Jul 20, 2009 RandomAnthony rated it liked it
Kevin Wilson’s Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories reads like the author read a whole lot of Flannery O’Connor while sitting alone at the lunch table in high school. I mean that in a good way.

The stories veer from the vaguely fantasy/sci-fi (“The Grand Stand-In”, about grandparents for hire in the near future) to the creepy (“The Shooting Man”) to the Zen-esque calm of outsiders who struggle with identity (the isolative curator of “The Museum of Whatnot”). Wilson tends to share the per
Jun 21, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-books
An excellent story collection that brings to mind the strange & compelling work of Elizabeth McCracken. These stories run the gamut of peculiar professions and misplaced oddballs: a professional "grandma" who makes memories on demand, a Scrabble factory worker who fears spontaneous combustion, a freak show regular who takes a bullet to the head every night, a cheerless cheerleader, a curator of banal objects and a balding worst-case scenario expert, among others. Simple prose and straight fo ...more
Jul 06, 2009 Beth rated it it was amazing
Caveat - I LOVE short stories ;) As a YA librarian, I always included a few collections in my book talks, because it's a great way to discover new writers, and they are a good fit for a teen's lifestyle, which is often lacking in time for leisure reading. A short story can be devoured in one sitting on the bus, before bed, in study hall - and you don't have to keep track of plots and characters if you don't have a chance to pick the book up again for weeks.

This was an absolute GEM of a book for
Mary Lynn
May 03, 2009 Mary Lynn rated it it was amazing
When I picked this book up in Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago I was so drawn in to the first story that I immediately found a seat in the store to read more of it instead of continuing to browse through B&N. (And browsing in B&N is just about my favorite thing in the world, so the fact that I ended up devoting my entire trip to this one book is saying something!) That first story was called "Grand Stand-In" and here's that opening graph that grabbed me and wouldn't let go:

The key to thi
Feb 18, 2010 Joanne rated it it was amazing
This guy just jumped into my car and screaming, "GO, GO, GO!!!" And I didn't know where we were going but the way he spoke made me certain that I would love it, wherever it was.

And so it was.

We peeled around strange corners and squealed through peoples lives, odd characters I never would have met or even imagined in my own life, with my own imagination at the wheel. Smashing through their kitchen windows and listening in our their private conversations, voyeurs breaking the speed of dreams, I w
Sep 12, 2011 Katherine rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
“She is prettier than her picture had prepared me for, blond curls, big blue eyes, like a fake child that someone would make in order to convince people to have children” (13).
“I walk down the stairs, into the exercise room, where the Beamers are riding machines to infinity” (16).
“To unlock the potential power of the letter Q, one must learn quickly that there are other words to spell than those that have the standard qu structure like quartet and quality and queen. Qat, qaid, qoph, and faqir wi
Mark Stevens
Apr 27, 2011 Mark Stevens rated it it was amazing
Bold, confident, matter-of-fact weirdness. These 11 stories start strange, stay strange and beg you to believe all these unusual situations are, well, perfectly plausible. Kevin Wilson takes reality and gives it an ever-so-slight Twilight Zone inversion.

Slight? Well, maybe more than slight. In most of these, he stretches the ordinary and part of the inherent tension is this: how far is he going to take this premise?

Next, Wilson adds a colorful, memorable character who accepts this alternate real
May 29, 2012 Blue rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
I picked up Tunneling to the Center of the Earth as I was wandering around at Parnassus, the only indie bookstore in Nashville, TN. Wilson's short story book, along with his novel, were laid out on the "Local Authors" table. The collection of short stories was not what I expected. In a good way.

If I were to compare, thought Wilson does not need to be compared, I would compare this collection to Etgar Keret's collections, perhaps The Girl on the Fridge. Sure, Wilson's characters are very in-the-m
Nov 21, 2011 BookBrowse rated it it was amazing
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 answer ...more
Aug 24, 2009 Kim rated it liked it
This was another NPR selection. There was something kind of Stephen King-esque about these stories. They weren't really horror stories, but there was always soemthing kind of weird and unsettling going on -- Stephen King Lite, I guess. As a whole, the stories range from three to four and a half stars, so I went with a three star overall rating. (If only we had Ann's pie chart method!!) Here are some of my favorites:

"Grand Stand In" -- This is the story of a woman who works for a company that pro
Nov 03, 2009 B rated it really liked it
Kevin Wilson is my new author boyfriend. These stories are so great, you guys. You should just read them. It has been a while since I read a book that I started making plans to sneak away with. OK, so at lunch I'll be able to read another story and then on the subway ride home, I'll be able to read a little bit more and if I don't return so-and-sos phone call, I can read a little bit more. This is how good they are. The hook of each of them is so clever. A grandmother stand in service? A woman h ...more
Jan 27, 2011 Tom rated it did not like it
Wilson's talent is pretty clear in the occasional funny moments, and the rare touching moment, but this collection is overall just not great. The stories are WAY too self-consciously quirky, with the absolute reliance on increasingly contrived gimmicks and Saunders-esque wacky jobs (ie- a guy who sorts letters in the scrabble factory, guys working in the noise factory, the replacement grandma, etc). Besides the pretty obvious derivative nature of the wackiness, it's problematic for two other rea ...more
Jan 26, 2016 Jeff rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016
Received this as a Christmas present from my reading group on LibraryThing. A debut collection of 11 short stories. I enjoyed all of them to one degree or another. This is a very sincere, but offbeat collection.

From the the story; "The Gran Stand In", about a service that provides grandparents for hire to replace someone's ailing or deceased parents when they can't bear to tell the grandkids, to "Museum of Whatnot" that takes hording to the next level.

Hard to pick my favorite, but I'll go with t
Al Zaquan
Nov 30, 2014 Al Zaquan rated it liked it
All his stories can be summed up in a sentence. His characters are always made to be lacking in some obvious, uncomplicated way - whether it's a baby with monstrous teeth, girl with no social connections, college grads who'd rather dig holes in the ground than think about their careers. This is a simple book full of very simple, short stories. The emotional wins at the end of every story, as a result, feel similarly simple. Rather than writing a character who is fully human, the author pokes som ...more
Apr 29, 2010 Kevin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: weird-stuff
This book merits the adjective "amazing." Wilson's stories are so good for reasons that almost seem unusual nowadays--they are rooted in grand ideas and memorable plots. A woman works as a grandma for hire... a man becomes fascinated by a circus trick that amounts to suicide... and another man is hired to tell his clients various theories about the worst things could happen to them. There are strong hooks throughout this book and it has the feel of a classic collection, maybe even the same class ...more
Bryton Belvin
Nov 29, 2015 Bryton Belvin rated it it was ok
Tunneling to the center of the earth
I did NOT enjoy this book. This book caught my eye in the library and I decided to give it a go. I became overly attached to the first character and then poof she was gone. The next chapter started and then I became attached to that character and then poof, he's gone. This book is agitating! I finally had to put it down which I do not do often.

“Don't you see? The things we once loved do not change, only our belief in them... You are left with the only thing
Jun 16, 2012 Yue rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone.
Recommended to Yue by: Colby
Whoa. Mind freaking blown.

Kevin Wilson is a genius. In this surreal anthology of wild short stories, he twists gut-wrenching bittersweet, hopeful, beautiful stories that just... I have no words.

Also, Go Fight Win is my favorite.:)

The characters are so relatable. In a strange way, I connect to their insecurities, fears, passions. So yes. In other words, go read. Get ready for your mind to be blown.
Aug 25, 2010 Christina rated it it was amazing
Go read this book. Why? Because two different people* have each stolen my lent-out copy rather than give it up. =) The stories are that good. You want to keep them around. Recently I had to buy my third copy of Tunneling to the Center of the Earth. And will I lend it out again? You betcha...because everyone should read this book.

* (an acquaintance and an ex-boyfriend, in case you were curious)
Anah Malik
Feb 09, 2014 Anah Malik rated it it was amazing
This novel is a series of short stories put together in no particular order, and following no particular theme (though some may disagree).

Kevin Wilson is best known for his short stories, he is a simple yet immensely emotional and philosophical writer. Wilson's stories vary in age, in moral, in theme, and yet each of them is told in a very personal tone. He plays the role of the narrative extremely well, allowing the reader to experience, understand, and love the characters. All of his character
Aug 21, 2014 Christine rated it really liked it
A solid collection of stories, mostly about lost persons filling their lives with activities that satisfy, but only gloss over their own personal emptinesses. Most of the stories have a happy or hopeful feeling to the endings -- or, at least, a satisfying conclusion. My favorites -- "The Dead Sisters Handbook: a Guide for Sensitive Boys," "The Choir Director's Affair (The Baby's Teeth)" (with its excellent use of the second person, very engaging) and "The Museum of Whatnot" (touches me in my arc ...more
Michael Bartlett
Apr 03, 2016 Michael Bartlett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Praticamente una via di mezzo fra un DFW non ossessionato da farmaci impronunciabili e un Saunders più a suo agio nei rapporti interpersonali.
Oct 10, 2014 Teresa rated it really liked it
It's like George Saunders went Southern Gothic. Dark as the blackest night but also very funny. Highly recommended.
Andrew Teperdjian
Apr 14, 2014 Andrew Teperdjian rated it it was ok
This 240 paged collection of short stories left me with a sense of depression because each story has a life that is totally messed up for some reason. I find that even distopian book are happier than this book. Each story within this book start of with a random character working in unrealistic, and depressing, jobs such as: Worst Case Scenario Inc. Their ending were fine, nothing special about them. Not very memorable.

Each chapter was its own story. Their sentences were very abrupt and not very
Oct 19, 2015 Joy rated it really liked it
Reminded me a little of early Tom Robbins, quirky characters & stories.
Carey Gibbons
Mar 09, 2016 Carey Gibbons rated it it was amazing
All of these stories were bizarrely charming. They were about being your weird undefinable self. And not really in any big ways. All of these people entered their comfort zones once they left everyone else's. I liked that. A lot of these hit close to home. The college grad who didn't know what was next in life who dug tunnels all under his neighborhood. The graduate from a museum studies program who can't handle owning her own stuff but curates exhibits made of other people's hoarding problems. ...more
Jun 30, 2010 Morgan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
What a weird little short story collection.
Mar 16, 2014 Allison rated it it was amazing
I'll be honest - the title and cover art grabbed my attention for this book, but I'm so glad it happened that way. These are some of the best, most innovative and interesting short stories I've ever read. The first story pulled me in and each of the following were just as fascinating. Wilson writes in a world where there is a company of stand-in grandmothers for families who aren't ready to tell their children that granny has passed on, where letters must be manually sorted in a Scrabble factory ...more
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Kevin Wilson was born, raised, and still lives in Tennessee. His writing has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, Greensboro Review, The Oxford American, Carolina Quarterly and elsewhere. His work has twice been included in the New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best anthology (2005, 2006). He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the KHN Center for the Arts. A graduat ...more
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“Don't you see? The things we once loved do not change, only our belief in them... You are left with the only things that any of us have in the end. The things we keep inside of ourselves, that grow out of us, that tell us who we are.” 11 likes
“She's got a way of making a man feel guilty for certain things he'd never feel bad about on his own, like watching someone shoot himself in the face.” 6 likes
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