Wells Tower - Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (3 stars)

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Wells Tower

(Granta)

SHORT STORY COLLECTION

Another month, another hotshot North American writer comes our way. With a splurge of fanfare arrives this debut collection from Wells Tower, who has previously contributed to the cult literary likes of McSweeney’s and The Believer. The hype, as is becoming the norm in these post-Eggers days, doesn’t quite match up to the reality. Within his nine tales, his main subject seems to be the disintegrating state of families and the attempts by members to engineer some kind of a renewal. So, we have conflicts between cousins, stepdad and stepson, and elderly wheelchair-bound father and unmarriable daughter.

There is certainly a pleasing sparseness about Tower’s writing, though he’s not scared to cock his gun with an imagistic flourish when the urge reaches him. In the gaps, though, there is a distinct coldness about the majority of his tales, which almost render them empty in the reader’s mind seconds after the finale has been reached and the next story has been embarked upon. Honourable exceptions are the sinister exit to the ‘Leopard’ and the awkward denouement to ‘Door in Your Eye’. Much responsibility is loaded onto the stark oppositions within each story, exemplified best by the violent, estranged hubby and the grubby peacenik who has replaced him in ‘Down Through the Valley’. As the pair are thrown together on an awkward road trip, the tension is palpable. It’s a feeling that occurs only too infrequently throughout this debut.

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