Monday, April 26, 2010

Story by story: Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson

I finished this highly accomplished collection today, and it's definitely one of the best books I've read this year.  Here's the story by story break down:

"Grand Stand In"
9/10- This story was dark in all the right ways.  Yet, like all of Wilson's stories, it had a heart beating strongly underneath.

"Blowing Up on the Spot"
8/10- What can you say about the story other than it's about spontaneous combustion and the main character works as a tile sorter in a Scrabble factory?

"The Dead Sister's Handbook: A Guide for Sensitive Boys"
8/10- Experimental story that features some of the most evocative language in the collection.

"Birds in the House"
10/10- Just a gorgeous story.  My favorite of the collection.

"Mortal Kombat"
9/10- Wilson's scenes explode with awkward intensity in this one.  Very moving.

"Tunneling to the Center of the Earth"
7/10- I loved the idea of this story before I read it, but oddly, the story itself fell a tad flat for me.  Still enjoyable and well-written, but not quite up to the excellence of the rest of the collection.

"The Shooting Man"
9/10- A brutal little horror story.

"The Choir Director Affair (The Baby's Teeth)"
8/10- Second person done right.  An emotional glimpse of how selfish people can be.

"Go, Fight, Win"
9/10- A girl trying not to fit in.  Loved the echoes of Flannery O'Connor in this one.

"The Museum of What-Not"
10/10- I want to write a story this good.  It seems like Wilson's characters are often holding themselves back, too afraid to fully participate in the world.

"Worst-Case Scenario"
8/10- This one really reminded me of George Saunders.

Overall- 9/10

I can't wait to see what Wilson does next.  He's obviously got talent to burn.


  1. Damn, never even heard of the guy. I'm still pretty new at the genre though. Have to google him. Great breakdown, John! Thanks!

  2. Best collection of 2009, "Birds in the House" is beyond words, I've actually taught "The Museum of Whatnot" in my Comp II classes the past 2 semesters it so far has been the favorite read each go around. "Blowing Up on the Spot" stuck with me after I read the collection, I still think about that story now and then. Great book!

  3. Damn it, now I have to go buy this. Thanks, John. The wallet is lighter because of you. At least, that's what I'm telling the wife.