Lorraine, May 7, 2009 (view all comments by Lorraine)
These nine, superbly written stories pack a wallop, a mix of human struggle with sprinklings of humor that capture the human experience. The voices are varied, attesting to Tower's talent. In this amazing collection, the reader encounters Bob as he struggles with his ruined life in the story "The Brown Coast", which could have been entitled "Man as Sea Cucumber". Next is sibling rivalry gone to extremes in "Retreat". Then there's the elderly Albert watching his interesting neighbor's house in "Door in Your Eye", and the gawky teenager Jacey whiling away a summer day, in "Wild America". The title story is a unique Viking tale. Sometimes I find contemporary short stories less than satisfying, but this collection restores my faith in the genre.
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Yonathan, March 5, 2009 (view all comments by Yonathan)
I learned of Wells Tower through his short story "Leopard," which left such an immediate impact on me that I procured an advance copy of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. Each tale in this collection reaffirmed his mastery of the short story. His characters have refreshingly realistic depth and each story feels whole and original. Despite the fact that the eponymous story centers on a band of Vikings, the book is distinctly American. Tower trains his keen eye on the modern American condition, in all its unprepossessing glory. His uncommon talent lies in his ability to depict beauty and melancholy, two inextricable elements, so piercingly. His prose is magnificent as well; the first couple of paragraphs of the title story - an irradiant exercise in both physical and emotional brutality - are a marvel.
If you are a living human you should read this book.
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"Review A Day"
by Deborah Eisenberg, New York Review of Books,
"The phrase 'well-crafted' suggests an unfortunate analogy between a piece of fiction and a piece of furniture. And there is a surprising amount of fiction around that is reasonably accomplished and graceful, or strikingly ornamented, or that skillfully reproduces previous successes in structure or tone and yet feels synthetic and inert — made up, in short, rather than like something that has been transcribed from a revelatory vision." (read the entire New York review of Books)
by Ben Marcus, author of Notable American Women and The Age of Wire and String,
Wells Tower is a blindingly brilliant writer who does more than raise the bar for debut fiction: he hurls it into space. With the oversized heart of George Saunders, the demon tongue of Barry Hannah, and his very own conjuring tools that cannot here be named, Tower writes stories of aching beauty that are as crushingly funny and sad as any on the planet.
by Benjamin Alsup, Esquire,
"We need books like Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned...What [Towers] portraits lack in grandeur, they compensate for in their accuracy...[The characters] live the way we Americans do."
by Publishers Weekly,
"[An] outstanding debut collection...The strange and magnificent title story, in which Vikings set off again toward an oft-raided island, beautifully ties the collection together in its heartbreaking final paragraph. Towers uncommon mastery of tone and wide-ranging sympathy creates a fine tension between wry humor and the primal rage that seethes just below the surface of each of his characters." (starred review and Pick of the Week)
by Kirkus Reviews,
"The title barely hints at the scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners power of the stories." (starred review)
by Kevin Clouther, Booklist,
"Towers debut story collection confirms what readers of Harpers, McSweeneys, The Paris Review, and other major publications have known for some time: Tower is a serious talent...Towers voice is honest and strange, humorous and insightful."
by Lawrence Rungren, Library Journal,
"Outstanding...Tower has crafted a powerful and assured debut collection."
"Wells Towers' stories are written, thrillingly, in authentic American vernacularviolent, funny, bleak, and beautiful. You need to read them, now." Michael Chabon, author of The Yiddish Policemens Union and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
by Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision,
"These are lurid, ingenious, beautiful, delicate, and very funny stories. Full of pity and terror, they are also great fun to read. Wells Tower has written a brilliant book."
“This arresting debut collection of stories decisively establishes Mr. Tower as a writer of uncommon talent.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
A dark and bitingly humorous collection of short stories from the "brilliantly evocative" Paul Theroux (Time)
From the author who penned The Wake of Forgiveness, ten remarkable stories that tackle what it means to be a man.
For fans of George Saunders and Raymond Carver, this powerful, imaginative story collection takes readers on a journey from the afterlife to contemporary times to the early days of Mormonism—a stunning debut by an acclaimed McSweeneys and Tin House contributor.
A debut novel that is a brilliant exploration of a close, complicated family and the struggle between brotherhood and becoming an individual
An exquisite, blistering debut novel Three brothers tear their way through childhood— smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out when their parents do battle, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift. Paps and Ma are from Brooklyn—hes Puerto Rican, shes white—and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times. Life in this family is fierce and absorbing, full of chaos and heartbreak and the euphoria of belonging completely to one another. From the intense familial unity felt by a child to the profound alienation he endures as he begins to see the world, this beautiful novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sly and punch-in-the-stomach powerful. Written in magical language with unforgettable images, this is a stunning exploration of the viscerally charged landscape of growing up, how deeply we are formed by our earliest bonds, and how we are ultimately propelled at escape velocity toward our futures.
Winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction
Shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing
Named "Outstanding 2014 Collection" by The Story Prize
Pushcart Prize WinnerIn this stunning debut, Shawn Vestal transports us to the afterlife, the rugged Northwest, and the early days of Mormonism. From “The First Several Hundred Years Following My Death,” an absurd, profound vision of a hellish heaven, to “Winter Elders,” in which missionaries calmly and relentlessly pursue a man who has left the fold, these nine stories illuminate the articles of faith that make us human.
The concluding triptych tackles the legends and legacy of Mormonism head-on, culminating in “Diviner,” a seriocomic portrait of the young Joseph Smith, back when he was not yet the founder of a religion but a man hired to find buried treasure. Godforsaken Idaho is an indelible collection by the writer you need to read next.Godforsaken Idaho named 'Outstanding 2013 Short Story Collections' by The Story Prize
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