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Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned: Stories Paperback – February 2, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1 Reprint edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312429290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312429294
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The stories in this outstanding debut collection explore the troubled relationships of men down on their luck, in failed marriages, estranged from family, caught in imbroglios between sons and their fathers and stepfathers, and even, in Wild America, the subtle and ferocious competition between teenage girls. Bob Monroe, the protagonist of The Brown Coast, loses his job, his inheritance and his wife after the death of his father. The narrator of Down Through the Valley, meanwhile, is persuaded to drive his ex-wife's boyfriend home from an ashram after he injures himself. In Leopard, the threat of a missing pet leopard lurking in the woods hints at a troubled 11-year-old's rage toward his stepfather. The narrator of Down Through the Valley has a savage freak-out that terrifies him. 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. Tower's 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. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics described this collection as visceral, contemplative, and inappropriately side-splitting, and were captivated by tales of men and their roles as fathers, stepfathers, brothers, sons, husbands, and ex-husbands (only one story featured a female protagonist). Reviewers further marveled at Tower’s ability to take readers from gut-clutching hilarity to gloomy introspection and back again in compact, descriptive language. Although critics disagreed about which stories were the best, only the Boston Globe cited “weaker,” “choppy,” and “overlong” entries. Overall, Tower has created a stunning collection of stories that will linger in the hearts and minds of readers.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Wells Tower's short stories and journalism have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, McSweeney's, The Paris Review, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, The Washington Post Magazine, and elsewhere. He received two Pushcart Prizes and the Plimpton Prize from The Paris Review. He divides his time between Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

This books was recommended by a book club member and was required reading for one of our meetings.
M. Madeley
I actually began skimming portions of the book just to get to the next story, hoping I might find a character I actually like.
amgroker
Wells writes from the gut while consistently turning out masterful twists of language, image and simile.
Debra Louise Scott

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 70 people found the following review helpful By michael carroll on March 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I started to read this book skeptically, but from the first story found myself completely disarmed. My favorite stories are "Retreat" and "Wild America," both gorgeously unexpected treatments of their subjects (in the first, sibling relationships, and in the second adolescent girls and sexual discovery). Nothing I could say about the way Wells Tower goes into his stories could possibly prepare you for the surprising pleasures of his language. He's always funny without sneering or being self-satisfied in his conclusions regarding this big messy thing, "American culture." He's sly and humble. But his sentences--the core of any literary enterprise as far as I'm concerned--are at the crux of his art. Carefully wrought, they approximate the uniqueness and the varieties of personal experience. And did I mention how funny he is? Anyone who cares about word choice or a fresh eye trained on the observations he makes (in the tradition of Joy Williams or Richard Yates, say) will read them aloud more than once and chuckle. Beautiful.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Bardamu on December 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The stories delve deep, elicit emotion and resolve by leaving you wondering at the awkward alignment of symbols meant to replicate 'real life.' More than that, the sentences are crisp and clear, the narrator's eye taking notice of details of the emotional and, mostly, physical landscape of the characters that everyone misses in ordinary life. This is Modern American Fiction at its best, and yet it begs a question: Wasn't there some sort of revolution long ago in the arts that America's ivory-tower fiction dispensaries (ie, MFA programs) try so hard to ignore? Namely, just as in painting we now laugh at how a Van Dyke lets every ruby and thread on a garment shine, and feel more comfortable when Manet blurs the figure--which is closer to how we see the world--shouldn't the perfect alignment of symbols and the noticing of all details that these stories, and so many others, present, bother us? It certainly bothered me. Don't get me wrong, the stories show a smart, insightful, sensitive, industrious author at work. But it's exactly this banal American industriousness, this cleverness and ego in getting everything 'right', that's so irksome. Not that fiction should be riddled with error, recklessness or a lack of control, but that authors should risk something, make a reader feel like the story could implode, challenge us. These stories do none of that. They're perfect, like butterflies preserved under glass. I enjoyed looking at them. I enjoyed getting away from them and breathing some fresh air far more so.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 9, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
These stories portray the ugliness of life in a uniquely satisfying way. These characters are not noble or lofty in their pursuits, ways, or beliefs. They are real, ugly, harsh, and selfish, yet they are complex, sympathetic, and relatable. Their stories are not neat little capsules that fit nicely into orderly rows, they are sprawling and confusing, with dead ends and twists and turns through unexpected territory. You're never quite sure where you are, or where you're going, and when you get there, you're not sure what to make of the view. The stories are not satisfying in the conventional sense, but they leave you with that feeling of deep understanding that all great authors do, and the journey is eminently enjoyable, thanks to the startling beauty of Tower's prose.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Schmidt on February 26, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I get this question all the time, "what authors are actually doing anything now?" and every time I always point that person in the direction of Wells Tower. I saw him speak two years ago at the University of North Texas, and realized that not only was he a fantastic writer, but he was also sharp as a tack and hilarious. Tower stood and orated to us, not from Everything Ravaged, but from his own personal unused work, or barely published material. It was like a breath of fresh air to see an author with so much steam and vigor. It appears he has a wealth of sources to draw from, and I am excited to see what he does next, but this collection will always be near and dear to my heart. Especially, the title story Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned is a great example of the quirky wit and magnificent spirit of Tower, along with his ability to play with the narrative form in an interesting way. I recommend.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Martin J. Kelly, Jr. on April 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
These stories are extremely good, but the reviews in the NY Times are too laudatory. The writing is spectacular in many places, pop-culture generated grammatical slips aside in a few spots, and the voice is strong.

I found a low level of emotional depth in most of the stories and I was surprised by the experience given the writing.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Larry Hoffer on August 18, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I try not to fall prey to hype, I really do. But when you see a book makes numerous year-end "best of" lists, you can't help but expect the book to be fantastic. And truthfully, nearly 95 percent of the time when I read a book on a "best-of" list of someone I respect, I usually agree.

Wells Tower's short story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, fell a bit short of its hype, in my opinion. Family and relationships--in all their glorious dysfunction--are the focus of this story collection, which was recognized by the New York Times and Amazon as one of 2009's best books. Yet while I found each of Tower's stories intriguing and readable, I kept waiting for something more, something to unleash and amaze me.

The characters in Tower's stories are all struggling with something, whether it's being banished to a rundown house after infidelity is discovered, a father suffering from dementia, having to drive your ex-wife's lover home from an ashram or even just teenage angst. Nearly all of the issues are relatable and the characters are appealing. But something is missing in every story. It's like he revved up the motor of every story and instead of a big finish, each one ended with a whimper. So instead of fully enjoying each story, I wondered what could have been. Bummer.
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