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Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

Wells Tower

Wells Tower

I’ve been meaning to read the improbably named Wells Towers’ debut collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, for a while now, but having knocked over the first two stories last night I’m now sorry I waited so long. The thing’s a joy: smart, muscular without being showy and brilliantly observed. It’s also very, very funny, as these three quotes from the first few pages of the first story, ‘The Brown Coast’, demonstrate:

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“Not long after the affair had run its course, Bob and his wife were driving into town when Vicky looked up and saw the phantom outline of a woman’s footprint on the windshield over the glovebox. She slipped her sandal off, saw that the print did not match her own, and told Bob that he was no longer welcome in their home.”

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“Above the kitchen sink was a painting of a beer can with Randall’s signature in the bottom right hand corner. Randall has done a good job with the Budweiser script, but he’d had to stretch out the can’s midsection to accommodate all the letters, so it bulged in the middle, like a snake swallowing a rat.”

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“By the window, a woman was sitting in a recliner and sucking on a cigarette. She was pretty, but she’d spent too much time in the sun. She was pruned over and nearly maroon, like a turkey beard.”

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Like I said, the thing’s a joy. You can buy it from Readings, The Book Depository, or Amazon.

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. My first thought was that ‘Wells Tower’ is a lover of Freudian symbology and that his nom de plume has been crafted as an androgyous verbal equivalent of the yin-yang mandala symbol thingy that appeared on so much hippie jewellery back in the day.

    On the other hand maybe it ishis real name, but what are the odds, I ask.

    July 17, 2009
  2. Given the names the kids in the local playground have, the odds are better than you think. But yes, it does sound like a name out of the Tarot.

    July 17, 2009
  3. Nikolaus #

    The name is apparently quite genuine: this from the New York Times:

    As for his all-noun name, Mr. Tower (who has a half-brother named Lake) said he was named for Wells Kerr, a long-serving dean of students at Phillips Exeter Academy who, according to family lore, was responsible for expelling Mr. Tower’s grandfather for possession of either cigarettes or a bottle of bourbon. (And perhaps the only thing fancier than having gone to boarding school — Mr. Tower went to public school — is having an ancestor two or more generations before you who went to boarding school.)

    “He eventually became an abiding friend of the family,” Mr. Tower said. “But it wasn’t a deliberate juxtaposition, I don’t think, to — ” He finished the thought by levering his hands in a way that suggested the above- and below-ground positions of a well and a tower.” (

    I very much enjoyed ER,EB, though I thought it felt conspicuously like a first book: showing off scads of raw talent at the level of sentence and observation, but not always completely convincing in conception. But it’s also possibly a little too lugubriously masculine for my taste; the book positively drips with souring testosterone.

    July 17, 2009
  4. Adam G #

    Mmm… turkey beard.

    July 22, 2009
  5. Very much enjoyed this collection though The Brown Coast (opening story) wasn’t one of hte highest points for me. Quite enjoyed the take of the eponymous Viking piece.
    His masterclass at MWF seemed to sell out before it even went on sale which was a shame.

    August 21, 2009

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