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~Free Epub ♱ Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned ♎ Viking Marauders Descend On A Much Plundered Island, Hoping Some Mayhem Will Shake Off The Winter Blahs A Man Is Booted Out Of His Home After His Wife Discovers That The Print Of A Bare Foot On The Inside Of His Windshield Doesn T Match Her Own Teenage Cousins, Drugged By Summer, Meet With A Reckoning In The Woods A Boy Runs Off To The Carnival After His Stepfather Bites Him In A BrawlIn The Stories Of Wells Tower, Families Fall Apart And Messily Try To Reassemble Themselves His Version Of America Is Touched With The Seamy Splendor Of The Dropout, The Misfit Failed Inventors, Boozy Dreamers, Hapless Fathers, Wayward Sons Combining Electric Prose With Savage Wit, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned Is A Major Debut, Announcing A Voice We Have Not Heard Before This book is floating between three and four stars.For the most part, the characters that Wells Tower casts in his debut short story collection are pretty awful people A few of his protagonists include estranged brothers, cheating spouses and pedophiles never before have I felt such anger and discomfort towards characters in a story Yes, I, Stephen M of goodreads, empathizer with the lowest of the low am I a bad person for IDing with Humbert Humbert felt nothing but scorn for the people of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned I think if I were a writer, I would take this as a compliment Well Wells should because it is not easy to provoke that kind of reaction from the reader The fact that such an emotion came out of me says he accomplished a lot, but that s not to say that I loved every page I don t think there s any dispute that this book is written terrifically The prose is sharp, to the point and occasionally dazzling Tower has a great deal of formal skill, he knows how to tell a story well, develop his characters, leaves much to the reader to divine, and blasts through the checklist that you d find in any good creative writing class.That being said, Tower doesn t reach nearly as far as his skill warrants He tells small stories in length and scope that hardly reach beyond the interpersonal drama of two brothers and a hunting trip or an old man, a drug dealer and her apartment His stories accumulate small flares of momentum but by the time it hits an interesting stride, the story ends, essentially killing the build up I attribute a portion of this to the short story format, but it is so apparent in these stories that Tower knows how to set up a story, bring together intriguing threads yet knows little of what to do with it once that has been achieved It seems that Tower holds himself back when another author would take a step forward, take a risk I m curious to hear about Tower s writing process especially w r t to the cuts he imposes on his material Some of these stories were probably much broader, sloppier and unfocused first drafts than the final products I m at a point in my reading where I almost prefer an ambitious story, even if it s sloppy over a story that is safe and perfect I m trying my best not to pigeon hole Tower here, because his writing is a bit daring than I m giving it credit for The two stories Retreat and Wild America are downright, five star fantastic But with the rest of the stories I felt antsy while reading them Most stories, I anxiously twiddled my thumbs waiting for the story to really take off When it finally would, the story would end If you d like to attribute all these opinions to the fact that read this cushioned between Infinite Jest and V. then that s probably fair.I certainly understand the hype around his writing but it was not enough for me Tower is a five star writer that wrote a couple 3 2 star stories I think that once he becomes confident and ambitious, we will be in for a real treat In the meantime, I had to sit patiently through a few bores and stories that weren t all that special More than anything else, character is Wells strong point As I ve already mentioned, he can invoke such a response from me solely through character That is saying a great deal There s a moment where a character is described so perfectly, with all the perfect detail, that it should have every writing teacher who has championed show not tell salivating from the mouthI spotted my stepmother by the dry fountain, where she was watching some young people make a film I left my cistern at my father s feet and jogged to her Since I d seen her last, Lucy had reached a new status of tiredness and age Looking at her, lady is what I thought, a word that summed up her sparse, dry hair, her mottled cheeks, her many clattering bracelets and her lipstick, an alarming coral shade leaking into fresh hairline rills around her mouth Her right eye was bloodshot and brimming with brine We embraced All she wore against the chill was a lam shawl over a flimsy black top, so thin I could feel the gooseflesh on her hard armsCompare that to something that a lesser writer view spoiler me hide spoiler Life is unlike the books of Orson Scott Card or Mercedes Lackey, where we are told in detail exactly how someone arrives at a decision through pages of thoughts in italics in Lackey s case, sigh Life is like this, wading through the muck of living, acting and reacting without real prior planning In my glass half empty moments, I feel like this continues until consequences accumulate to a critical point and progress has to be stopped to deal with the overflow.I still haven t quite figured out why I read or what for If left to myself, I wouldn t have picked up this story collection But man, is the writing incredible I need to remember to mark things as I read The subjects and topics aren t whiz bang, they re not lovely crystal moments that ache to be preserved It must be the skill of the writer that limns these stories with a grace that I can t really attribute to the plots Writer craft, it s magic.Eight of the nine stories have contemporary settings I don t see how the last, title story fits into the set It s pretty funny, like something set to tuba music, of Vikings presented like tired suburban dwellers. I know I m late getting to this, but here I go and so far I gotta alert you others believe the hype This is fucking phenomenal I ve been reading a lot of them lately so I think I m qualified to complain that a good short story collection is hard to find There is a lot of fairly good short fiction, and short fiction with good things about it, but actually finding an entire book of stories by one author that is solidly original and well written and interesting and fresh is not something that happens too often to me Actually a frenemy of mine told me to read this over a year ago, and I even got it out of the library then but didn t manage to open it before it was due back Then about a month or two ago, I read some totally underwhelming Wells Tower story in the New Yorker, and so like Mike Reynolds, I was just kind of all, meh, yeah whatever I actually don t remember what did make me get this out of the library again, only holy shit, wow, I m really glad I did This is one of those books that totally deserved all the annoying hype Again, I ve been reading a lot of short fiction and the truth is that while there are some great stories out there, it s almost impossible for me to make it through an entire collection by one author Very few writers have a voice or perspective that s compelling enough to shack up with for a series of unconnected but underlyingly similar episodes And there are just so many traps for short stories it s too easy for them either to be boring or else a bit maudlin and reliant on tragic cliches, or too painfully straining for eccentric whimsy which I hate.I can t remember if I ve talked about this on here already, but earlier this year I was watching Mulholland Drive and trying to figure out what was so good about it What I realized is that every line of dialogue in that movie, each shot, everything that happens, is either just a little or widely off what you re expecting The movie heightens and exploits this by being set in this noiry genred world since you sort of think you know what you re looking at, you re not expecting to be surprised, and Lynch shows I think good control for once in not making things so weird that you ever fully stop expecting that you know at least partly what to expect Like, a lot of the times with his other stuff you re aware going in that it s all gonna be zany bizarro, but just being surprised doesn t provide that same immense thrill if you understand that that s what s scheduled to happen It s the difference between seeing a sequined drag queen at the Halloween Parade and seeing one working in a hospital Anyway, this is a total digression, and maybe it s an obvious point, but since then that s been my standard for evaluating a lot of movies and books Does it feel real and coherent enough that on some level I think I know what to expect i.e., it s not just random silly craziness but then constantly destabilizes me by going somewhere I m not expecting but am able to follow Wells Powers does that in all of these stories This book is cliche free, and there s no sentence in here that you can guess is coming I was never like, Oh, another tragic divorced guy who drinks, or Oh, another kids are so cruel childhood reminiscence Or rather, I was, but then what followed wasn t like anything I d read before I don t mean it was all over the top shocking, just that it was new And that newness is what I m after when I read contemporary fiction These stories are mostly about men, sad men, sad and troubled men, in a way that isn t like anyone else s sad troubled men stories The sexy, hilarious prom king here is obviously the title story the last one in the book which, in case you haven t heard, is about FUCKING VIKINGS This one s the joke that will keep on being funny forever, that works on so many levels, that you make your brothers read I liked all the other ones too, and they were as good even without being as show stoppingly flashy I think my favorites were the first two, and Door in Your Eye There weren t any duds though I totally recommend this volume, unless you yourself are trying to write short fiction, in which case it will probably just make you depressed about not being as talented as this guy Maybe that s good, though Maybe you should stop After reading this I wondered if a lot of people should. I didn t read it all I read the first story, which was your standard New Yorker story about a middle aged middle class guy doing something vague and poignant during a Major Life Moment And I read the last story the same but with Vikings I m not going to read the ones in between unless someone can convince me one of them is significantly better, or at least different.I think Wells Tower is a super talented writer in all the standard workshop areas But there s something I don t get about why the world needs any New Yorker stories As sharp as the prose is, it s not such a singular joy to read that it revives the well trodden tropes of post Raymond Carver American fiction Even the New Yorker is not printing these like they used to, thank God or Conde Nast.And yet, certain highly placed people snort up this sort of thing with a straw The back cover brags of how these stories were published just evvvvverywhere Wells Tower knows what highbrow lit editors want, and can produce it Good for him None for me, thanks I had such high hopes for the Viking story It seemed like comedy gold Vikings, but who talk like New Yorkers, in a New Yorker story about Vikings They sack an island and are conflicted But alas, although the conceit is so good that I couldn t help but smile at parts, he ultimately still played it all very straight, very real lifey, very vague and poignant during a Major Life Moment y Yawn.I m sure Wells Tower will write better books in the future He s up and coming and all that He ought to decide what he wants literature to become, instead of just mastering what it s been I often suspect I m missing out on something important by not being highbrow focused in my reading and writing, but this is a book I feel okay about not finishing. like trying to push a coin with your mind a quivering halo of vermilion minnows a little imp inside me whose ambrosia is my brother s wrath his tongue lolling like a tiki god in ugly throes big medicine on the dragon and blight circuit I m going to have to find someone else to call the best writer in America without a book to his credit in too loud, one sided conversations now Like very few writers I can think of Leonard Michaels, Joy Williams, Karen Russell, Breece Pancake , Tower seems incapable of writing a dull sentence, let alone a dull story This has got to be the debut of the year Buying it will be your good deed of the day. This one s pretty hard to review, especially after paying what ended up being probably too much attention to the raving and then the backlash.I stand by what I said in a comment elsewhere the style of this particular book is, or should be, its point Don t listen to the naysayers who pick apart Tower s prose and judge it illogical They may technically be right, but I don t think a lack of logic is necessarily detrimental to prose A few quick quotes to demonstrate half of what I m talking about his father would be a florid fifty year old who would suck the innocence and joy from his child as greedily as a desert wanderer savaging a found orange Little Buttons s hygiene was poor His eyes watered, and he so often had a piece of food in the corner of his mouth that you wondered if he kept it in a bedside saucer overnight and donned it in the morning I think I ve seen this quoted elsewhere, and it s not really good prose, but it made me laugh I d eat her whole damn child just to taste the thing he squeezed out of A man imagining his own cuckolding but start playing back all the old footage, and pretty soon Mendocino Barry steals into the frame, his bare dark brindled haunches in your bed, candles and an incense stencher fuming on the nightstand You can see him tucking a yellow thumbnail under the scalloped elastic of her bikini underpants and shucking them down slow, maybe with a word or two about lotus blossoms You don t want to picture how she lifts her hips up off the bed, the openmouthed anticipatory shivers, or Barry rearing up in a sun salute between her splayed knees, his tongue lolling like a tiki god in ugly throes But there s not much else about this book besides its style, which, as always, there s no accounting for taste It s a pretty book about pretty ugly people Every time Tower tries to say something profound or moralize, it comes out cloying and insincere, which could cause problems if one were not able to ascribe said moralizing to Tower s characters Even then, hiding behind your characters because you have nothing to say is sort of a dirty trick.I should also note that these stories aren t particularly memorable, partially because many of them don t have ends I read part of one looking for a quote, realized I had no idea how it ended, and read about 10 pages very little of which was familiar I still don t dislike it, though Ultimately, if your priority is smart, descriptive prose, you will probably like this If you want stories that will actually disturb you, rather than just make you feel slightly bleak about humanity s prospects, it d be better to read.oh jeez, I don t know, I don t really know that many good stories I ll have to fall back on Wallace and say Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. Apparently Tower is on my side regarding this grammatical bugbear if you have a singular noun that nonetheless ends in S, and you want to make it a possessive, do you add just an apostrophe or an apostrophe and another S Tower, Strunk and White, and I all agree that it s the latter Most other people seem to think the former But allow me to proselytize for a second In this case, we can appeal to logic if you only add an apostrophe, you have to depend on context to tell you whether the word you re dealing with is actually singular or plural With the additional S, you can tell it s singular even if the word is alone Yes No In the title story of his debut collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, Wells Tower uses contemporary American idiom to tell the story of a Viking having second thoughts about his career as a plunderer and pillager.We ve seen reluctant detectives, hitmen and superheroes but never a foot dragging sacker of cities It s a weirdly empathetic and altogether unforgettable tale, but once you get past the absurdity of characters with names like Naddod the Norwegian Monk and Djarf Fairhair talking like teenagers around a game of Dungeons and Dragons, the story is fairly conventional a young man in love must choose between the safety of the life he knows the perils of long sea voyages and raiding villages notwithstanding and the unknown terrors of raising a family.For all the literary pyrotechnics on display in this curious narrative, the rest of the stories are surprisingly straightforward In fact, Tower s skill at things like exposition and characterization mark him as almost old fashioned.The story Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned was first published in the New York literary magazine Fence way back in 2002 The story won the Pushcart Prize and was anthologized in The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories in 2004 In other words, this fresh new voice in American fiction is neither fresh nor new and that s precisely what makes the arrival of this incredible talent so compelling.Tower s subject He doesn t have one He adeptly tackles all manner of familial conflicts father vs son, brother vs brother, husband vs wife, boy vs stepfather, in other words, the world It must be said that all but one of the nine stories in the collection are told from the point of view of male protagonists The stories are set in locales scattered across the country, yet Tower displays the authority of a regional writer He crossed the cockeyed patio Tiny lizards scattered from his path He followed the sound of waves to the end of the yard, through a stand of pine trees, limbless and spectral He stepped from the pines onto a road paved with oyster shells whose brightness in the morning light made his eyes clench up It s hard to imagine anyone, much less a literary minded fellow, paying such loving attention to coastal Florida, but the details are conjured up so thoroughly one can almost hear the skinks scurrying for cover in the understory.Tower brings his keen powers of observation to bear on the human form as well In Executors of Important Energies, a hustler s broken front tooth is described as a tiny gray guillotine A tall girl with too much makeup on in Down Through the Valley is a bleached giraffe in tight jeans It sometimes feels as if there s nothing Tower can t render in arresting fashion Near the end of Retreat, a hunter who has killed a moose and cut out the short ribs and tenderloin characterizes the latter as a tapered log of flesh that looked like a peeled boa constrictor Tower s prose is a welcome reminder that the first job of the fiction writer is to introduce the reader to worlds both new and familiar in ways they wouldn t have arrived at on their own.In the collection s finest story, On the Show, Tower writes with spellbinding virtuosity Beginning with the portentous Now it s dark, the story proceeds with the sun setting on a traveling carnival show Readers who have sworn off stories set in zoos and amusement parks will be happy to know that we re not in George Saunders counterfactual America sometimes a carnival is just a carnival The sky glows hyena brown as egrets take flight over a drainage canal A lizard, a Florida anole, cocked on the shoulder of the propane tank beside the service window, slips down the tank s enamel face into a crescent of deep rust The surface of the rusting tank prompts the lizard into changing colors, but it s a trick Against the lizard s belly, the rust s soothing friction offers an illusion of heat, and the lizard s hide goes from the color of a new leaf to the color of a dead one This cinematic opening, full of garish colors and things not quite what they seem, introduces an unputdownable whodunit that centers on the molestation of a young boy.As to why Tower had to wait so many years for his debut is anyone s guess, but one suspects we ll be hearing his name which invokes prose that is both soaring and deep for a long time to come Originally published in the L.A Times Style It s amazing I mean to say, we all have the same English language with its million plus words available to us, it s open 24 hours a day, you have already been given a free lifelong subscription How is it that some writers can put selections from those million English words which are permanently available to all the rest of us down in sentence after sentence so that it becomes much than prose, it becomes style So that you read one page and you can say oh, that s James Ellroy Or Virginia Woolf Or Philip Roth Or Raymond Carver Or Annie Proulx The critics, that gaggle of preening police informants, got it so right with this guy They loved him, I loved him I ve been looking for a new short story genius since the sad Missing In Action fate of Thom Jones Wells Tower is it.This collection reads like it s pieces of a giant, really giant, novel which in order to twine all the pieces of lives here presented together would be like 900 pages long So, Wells, if you re listening, do the right thing, take a few years off and WRITE IT Although that would kind of undermine my ongoing campaign to get the short story, the three minute single of modern literature, a little profile Because all the stories here except one are cut from the crazy cultural layercake that is contemporary America, the extraordinarily ordinary scenes of bad romances, sudden fights, pleasure and boredom, difficult brothers, ex wives, stepfathers, tv, a little too much to drink, a little bit of dope, sexy cousins, places you really wouldn t want to be, and of course places you really would like to be, for a week or two at least Wait a moment hasn t that stuff been done to death already by all the other short story writers Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Richard Bausch, Amy Hempel, the list goes on not to mention all the good and not so good novelists of America of the last 40 years Well, yes, so Wells Tower shows again that you take some guitars and a bass and drums, the same old instruments that they been using since the sixties, and you can still make magic The magic doesn t come from the guitars and the bad romances, it comes from you A few quotes may be in order at this pointI was hoping I could sell the patent for a hundred thousand or so and then hurry to the Gulf Coast to cram a pontoon boat and a big titted stranger into the hollow places in my heart p70 Jacey could not find a term appropriate for when a young girl is groaned on by a thirty five year old lieutenant of the arts p158 She and Buttons lay there an hour and a half and mashed the lozenge eighteen times The necking got fairly grave, but nothing irreparable took place p163 Well, I had this boss I m telling you, if you asked me for an asshole, and I gave you that guy, you d have owed me back some change p176 Stuff like that is festooned throughout these nine stories There was only one I could have done without the title story, as it happens, which is just a bit silly Otherwise about half of them are going straight into the PB Hall of Short Story Fame.Wells Tower Highly unlikely But it happened. A refreshing short story collection Not the same old MFA blah, blah, blah Not the same old Pleasant Valley Sunday in suburbia God help us all blah, blah, blah, either Instead, stories that walk the edge Losers you love to hate and hate to love Mostly guy stories, but a few from different POVs, too, like the teen girl who vents her anger at a cousin who steals her squeeze by striking up a conversation with some drifter who is sunning himself shirtless on a rock in the stream out in the woods it s Whatever O Clock do you know where your daughter is That one s called Wild America Then, in Leopard, you get the kid playing hooky from school with a stay at home step dad who suspects he s a fraud and hates the punk, anyway When Junior plays possum, he attracts a policeman and play acting turns into improv theater loose leopard incidental.Creepiest maybe is On the Show, which enters the fertile and fetid turf of the Midway where a little kid gets abused in a Porto Potty, a teenage boy takes employment after duking it out with HIS step dad Mom took sides , and a host of carnies contest for most likely stereotype in the nether parts of our imaginations.My favorite is Retreat It hits some of my buttons, is why, exploring as it does the sometimes hilarious, sometimes testy relations between adult brothers I have three It s set in Maine, too, and features a deer hunt that turns into a moose hunt and ultimately winds up being a 12 point irony hunt The dialogue is viciously hilarious, walking that line we call guy love and withering sarcasm What I like best is Tower s penchant for stopping, not ending, his stories This will drive traditional readers crazy been there, done that , but I like it especially when Tower manages to find just the right image, one that touches on an earlier thread in the story, one that leaves an impression on your cerebellum And who says stories have endings, anyway O.Henry is dead Resolutions are overrated And real life doesn t speak French, so take your denouement and baguette it.As with any collection, some unevenness, some variety in effectiveness, but overall, a nice run and a refreshing change I ll be watching Tower for future releases and praying against the sopho jinx.