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on April 3, 2012
I usually like short story collections a lot. Like a lot a lot. Especially when they have a running theme and are fitted together seamlessly like Dancing Girls (Atwood) or In Our Time (Hemingway) or Close Range (Proulx). So, I was a little disappointed by this collection. I've read a couple of Wells Tower`s stories in The New Yorker, and really enjoyed them. He equally balances the absurd and the sad without beating you over the head with depressing-ness (like Annie Proulx tends to do).

I #lovelovelove the story "Leopard," which appears in the middle of the collection. I'd read it before in The New Yorker (You can read it here) and loved it then. It's about a little kid who fakes sick to stay home from school. His step dad-a royal bastard-knows he's faking it and makes him pick up the mail. The mailbox is quite a ways away since they live in the country and the kid has this inner monologue about how it's so unfair that his "almost a psychopath" step-dad would be so insensitive as to let his "sick" step-son walk half a mile to pick up the mail. Then he has this great idea of pretending to pass out on the road so his mom will find him there and feel really bad. Anyway, a police man shows up and everything gets SUPER tense. The whole story is this dramatic build-up. I kept thinking WHEN is the step-dad going to snap and attack the kid with that axe??

The other story that I liked a lot was "Retreat" about two brothers that sort of hate each other, but it all seems to be because of one misunderstanding after another since childhood. The older brother buys some land out in the boonies and invites the younger one to come hangout with him. He's trying to get the younger one to invest in the property so that they can turn it for a profit. Then they kill a diseased moose, which is kind of a metaphor for their entire relationship.

The other stories in the book share common themes of divorce, heart-break, retreat from society, and a desire to reconnect with nature. The stories all have male protagonists and just sort of end without obvious conclusion. They are simply slice-of-life and I LOVE that.

Then, out of now where, the collection ends with "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned." It's set in a different time when people live in huts and tents and fight neighboring tribes. This story features a protagonist who is married and very much in love with his wife (the total opposite of any other character in the collection!). In the story, another man finds a woman to love and marry. All of a sudden we go from totally emotionally effed up men escaping relationships through retreat to emotionally stable men who are eager to return home to their wives and domestic life. Plus, it has a conclusive, reflective ending.

Way to throw us off your scent Mr. Wells Tower!

Anyway, this is a pretty good collection, but I thought the stories could have been more cohesive. I mean Proulx's Close Range will the depress the hell out of you, but at least she's consistent.
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on May 12, 2017
I needed the book to give an example on writing in the 2nd person POV in a workshop I was teaching. But the other stories were way too graphic for me. I will give it to the Friends of the Library.
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on September 20, 2016
Oddly disparate, but somehow unified, stories that bring you in to the characters' world - not always pleasant places, but quite real, and you are allowed to leave while they remain there in what seems a normal world.
A very quick read but not without substance. Settings are varied, and the populations are slightly askew. Both funny and poignant.
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on May 5, 2015
Enjoyed the book because I am quite familiar with the locale, having been in the Intel biz there myself once upon a time.. Familiarity is sort of comfortable.

I could have done without the "oufs" which made me think of comic books. "Achs," would have been better since the speaker was ostensibly German.
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on December 27, 2017
Better than Hemingway in my opinion. A really great new author. I wish the book was longer and/or he wrote more. I would buy again and recommend.
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VINE VOICEon May 29, 2010
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned is a short story collection that truly lives up to its title. The happenings that populate its pages are bleak indeed, its characters a who's who of damaged lives and bad decisions. And while parts of it can be a touch too Grand Guignol it is remarkable how Wells Tower manages to make most of it profound and affecting rather than irksome.

It starts with some fine turns of phrase that make depression into something witty ("My hangover was calamitous," "for quite a while, we'd been nothing but an argument looking for different ways to happen," etc.). The crosses these characters bear have weight, but they feel less burdensome under Towers' deft guidance. But what really makes this collection poignant is its author's ability to empathize with his sad sack subjects - one can almost feel that he has affection for their unique abilities to make messes of their lives, and when he writes about their failures it is with a knowing wink to the reader. It is almost as though Tower takes pride in giving lives of desperation (both quiet and explosively loud) a spotlight - a chance to shine for one brief moment and be understood.

The element of too-muchness does ultimately keep Everything Ravaged from being a great collection, but it remains a very readable work from someone who is definitely a talent to watch. I for one am intrigued to see what he comes up with next.

Grade: B
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on June 7, 2009
"Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" finally arrived to my door!

I'd read the good reviews and kept seeing the book different places, my anticipation was building..

Wells Tower can write, extremely well. His stories are very, very well written and leave you wanting to know more at the end.

These stories are the kind most readers will either love or hate. The book consists of nine stories, with each story being around 18-30 pages long.

Of the nine stories, I like all but two of them. "Wild America" was long and didn't really go anywhere and the title story "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" didn't blow me away, as it did to some reviewers it seems. The story was supposed to have alot of WOW factor, but I've read too many other graphic stories for that.

My favorites were:

Retreat
Down Through the Valley
Leopard
Door In Your Eye

The great story "On the Show" has all the makings of a good novel and has a great cast of characters to go along with it.

Overall, a very good collection and a great start for Wells Tower~
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on April 9, 2012
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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on August 29, 2017
great. dark and sad but very good story telling
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on December 11, 2010
I bought this book because it was recommended by David Sedaris and I expected something Sedaris-like, or at least funny.
Though there are a few moments of wry humor, I was pretty well mistaken.
That said, the prose in here is brilliant. Wells Tower certainly has a way with words and descriptions and his stories are highly evocative and even moving. However, I don't think I'll ever read this book a second time, because the stories are almost universally depressing and monochromatic. They're almost all about sad, lonely men who do bad things, then end the story still sad and lonely. Not the best bedtime read.
However, I know that Mr Tower is definitely a writer to keep an eye on; he clearly has a brilliant future ahead of him.
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