Kevin Wilson’s Tunneling to the Center of the Earth and Jon Raymond’s Livability by Lena Valencia

Part of the Editor's Choice series.

BOMB 107 Spring 2009
Issue 107 0  Cover
Kevin Wilson 01

Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, a debut collection of stories by Kevin Wilson, turns the genre of Southern fiction on its head. In the vein of Steven Millhauser, Wilson’s characters confront mundane problems in offbeat situations: an inheritance is decided by a complex game involving electric fans and origami birds; recent college grads avoid the “real world” by creating a network of tunnels under their neighborhood; and—in what could have been lifted from a Jan Svankmajer animation—the scandal of an extramarital affair is overshadowed by the couple’s grotesque baby, who was born with a full set of sharp, sparkling white teeth. Wilson creates nightmarish hyper-realities by literalizing familiar metaphors, like a 12-year-old whose love is so fiery that he actually ignites himself in an attempt to woo an older girl. While his bizarre plots can occasionally become distracting, Wilson’s fully realized characters keep the stories grounded.

Jon Raymond 01

Jon Raymond’s Livability focuses on the Pacific Northwest, birthplace of grunge, and a haven for freegans, couch surfers, and vagabonds. Co-screenwriter of Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy (the short stories that the films were based on both appear in this collection), Raymond conceals political observations beneath layers of drama: a dinner party quip about the unburstable real estate bubble or an offhand anecdote about evacuating a hurricane-flooded apartment serve as simmering backdrops. Raymond’s characters are constantly at odds with past lives or struggling to create a better future: a Russian teenager who has stolen from Express’s register spends an awkward drunken night hiding with a coworker in the store and finds peace in an early morning Tai Chi class; a screenwriter finally pays attention to his daughter when he stops agonizing over a potentially life-changing call from an agent. Though his characters are often in tenuous situations, Raymond steers away from portraying them as victims.

No matter how realistic or hyper-realistic their settings may be, these collections feature characters longing futilely to evade the present, whether by escaping into the comfort of a past relationship, the prospect of a better career, or the quiet, cold soil beneath their neighbors’ homes.

Lena Valencia is assistant editor of BOMB.

Tunneling to the Center of the Earth was published by Harper Perennial in 2009.

Livability was published by Bloomsbury USA in 2008.

Laurie & Friends at BAM’s Next Stage Benefit by Lena Valencia
Laurie Anderson 01
Reimagining the State: Jonas Eika Interviewed by Sarah Neilson
Cover photo of Jonas Eika's After the Sun which is the title with swirly bright colors all around it.

A collection of short stories by the Danish author addressing global class crisis and inequality.

Announcing the Winner of BOMB’s 2021 Fiction Contest
Author photo of Edward Salem, who has a beard and short hair. He is wearing a shirt open at the color and is standing in front of a gray wooden fence.

Congrats to Edward Salem, the winner of this year’s Fiction Contest!

Pay Attention to the Humming: Ethan Rutherford Interviewed by Paul Yoon
Lime book cover with burgundy tree and blue leaves titled "Farthest South"

A story collection about parenting in a post-apocalyptic world.

Originally published in

BOMB 107, Spring 2009

Featuring interviews with Adam Bartos and A.M. Homes, Jacqueline Humphries, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, Andrei Codrescu, Mary Gaitskill, Matthew Buckingham, and Pauline Oliveros. 

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Issue 107 0  Cover