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Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  7,734 ratings  ·  1,005 reviews
A man is booted out of his home after his wife discovers that the sweat-smudged footprint on the inside of his windscreen doesn't match her own. Teenage cousins, drugged by summer, meet with a reckoning in the woods. A boy runs off to the carnival after his stepfather bites him in a brawl. In the stories of Wells Tower, families fall apart and messily, hilariously try to r ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 6th 2009 by Granta (first published January 1st 2009)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
You know that dizzy, clammy feeling just after you've gotten really infuriated with someone and exploded into a fit of dismal, futile nastiness by saying something sadistic and clever and perhaps even true enough--to them, at least--that, regardless, cuts straight to the bone of the listener, causing you almost immediately afterward to break out into a full body attack of hives and dripping sweat, heart suddenly hammering, as you watch that person spontaneously combust before your very eyes, lea ...more
Paul Bryant
Jan 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Style. It’s amazing. I mean to say, we all have the same English language with its million plus words available to us, it’s open 24 hours a day, you have already been given a free lifelong subscription. How is it that some writers can put selections from those million English words which are permanently available to all the rest of us down in sentence after sentence so that it becomes more (much more) than prose, it becomes style. So that you read one page and you can say – oh, that’s James Ellr ...more
Life is unlike the books of Orson Scott Card or Mercedes Lackey, where we are told in detail exactly how someone arrives at a decision (through pages of thoughts in italics in Lackey's case, sigh). Life is more like this, wading through the muck of living, acting and reacting without real prior planning. In my glass-half-empty moments, I feel like this continues until consequences accumulate to a critical point and progress has to be stopped to deal with the overflow.

I still haven't quite figure
Sep 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: men, boys, other people who've known men or boys
Recommended to Jessica by: ricky raleigh; the hysterical press
I know I'm late getting to this, but here I go and so far I gotta alert you others: believe the hype. This is fucking phenomenal.

I've been reading a lot of them lately so I think I'm qualified to complain that a good short story collection is hard to find. There is a lot of fairly good short fiction, and short fiction with good things about it, but actually finding an entire book of stories by one author that is solidly original and well-written and interesting and fresh is not something tha
Stephen M
This book is floating between three and four stars.

For the most part, the characters that Wells Tower casts in his debut short story collection are pretty awful people. A few of his protagonists include estranged brothers, cheating spouses and pedophiles; never before have I felt such anger and discomfort towards characters in a story. Yes, I, Stephen M of goodreads, empathizer with the lowest of the low—am I a bad person for IDing with Humbert Humbert?—felt nothing but scorn for the people of E
Aug 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"like trying to push a coin with your mind"..."a quivering halo of vermilion minnows"..."a little imp inside me whose ambrosia is my brother's wrath"..."his tongue lolling like a tiki god in ugly throes"..."big medicine on the dragon-and-blight circuit"...

I'm going to have to find someone else to call "the best writer in America without a book to his credit" in too-loud, one-sided conversations now. Like very few writers I can think of (Leonard Michaels, Joy Williams, Karen Russell, Breece Panca
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wells Tower's agent
I didn't read it all. I read the first story, which was your standard New Yorker story about a middle-aged middle-class guy doing something vague and poignant during a Major Life Moment. And I read the last story: the same but with Vikings. I'm not going to read the ones in between unless someone can convince me one of them is significantly better, or at least different.

I think Wells Tower is a super-talented writer in all the standard workshop areas. But there's something I don't get about why
This one's pretty hard to review, especially after paying what ended up being probably too much attention to the raving and then the backlash.

I stand by what I said in a comment elsewhere: the style of this particular book is, or should be, its point. Don't listen to the naysayers who pick apart Tower's prose and judge it illogical. They may technically be right, but I don't think a lack of logic is necessarily detrimental to prose. A few quick quotes to demonstrate half of what I'm talking abou
Nov 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers & writers
Recommended to Jim by: Submersion Journalism
In the title story of his debut collection, "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned," Wells Tower uses contemporary American idiom to tell the story of a Viking having second thoughts about his career as a plunderer and pillager.

We've seen reluctant detectives, hitmen and superheroes but never a foot-dragging sacker of cities. It's a weirdly empathetic and altogether unforgettable tale, but once you get past the absurdity of characters with names like Naddod the Norwegian Monk and Djarf Fairhair
Feb 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A refreshing short story collection. Not the same old MFA blah, blah, blah. Not the same old Pleasant Valley Sunday in suburbia (God help us all) blah, blah, blah, either. Instead, stories that walk the edge. Losers you love to hate and hate to love. Mostly guy stories, but a few from different POVs, too, like the teen girl who vents her anger at a cousin who steals her squeeze by striking up a conversation with some drifter who is sunning himself shirtless on a rock in the stream out in the woo ...more
Ryan Chapman
Aug 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Tower's stories take place in the middle parts of America, which isn't to say the midwest - he takes on the bored teenagers, the divorced fathers, the estranged brothers. Except for the last two stories, "On the Show" and titular piece about Visigoths going through the motions of raping and pillaging, there's a fairly similar approach: we're invited into these people's domestic lives through their pitch-perfect verbs (what verbs! I'm telling you) and dialogue until a real sense of things is esta ...more
Richard Derus
Oct 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If this is the beginning of a career, it's hella fine and bodes so well for the rest of his earthly time that I am thrilled and grateful he decided to write.

The nine stories in the collection are the products of much careful observation, writing, and re-writing, and that shows in their craftsmanship. There are very few infelicities of style on display here. But what doesn't show, what's invisible to the naked eye, is the muse-touch that brought Wells Tower to our shelves. He's not a writer made,
Apr 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to jo by: mike, with his review
Shelves: short-stories
this is pretty fabulous short story writing. maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but definitely splendid. it's quite impressive, for one, that wells tower should have waited so long to put out a collection, piling up stories in this and that first-rate magazine seemingly with no hurry whatsoever, giving thus the impression of being after beauty and intensity of narration rather than a book. my friend mike compares these stories to flannery o'connor's but the only similarity i see, besides the extra ...more
Feb 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The word I keep wanting to use to describe this short story collection is “masculine.” Customers give me weird looks when I do this. But I suppose it's still better than the other phrase I could use: “Whoa-ho-ho, hello, daddy issues!”

This is a collection all about manly men in the height of their manliness, doing manly things like hunting deer and having questionable affairs with questionable women, all while suffering from some seriously bad cases of Manpain (a.k.a. Mangst), and failing to conn
Jan 25, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, 2010
I won this book through the FirstReads program. I love short stories and had high hopes for this collection. However, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned: Stories turned out to be a collection of utterly depressing stories about self-indulgent losers. The characters are rich guys with lousy relationships, young teenage girls who want sex with middle-aged men, carnival workers and others living meaningless lives of their own creation. Even the damn Vikings are depressing losers. "I'm so sick of ...more

PS: I've just realised that the title to this might seem like the ultimate comment on what goodreads has done to itself. But I assure you, it is only coincidence. :)
Dec 03, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
For me, this collection shows that Wells Tower is a master of words, a true talent with crafting some beautiful sentences, but for the most part, is still some way short of being a great storyteller. This may sound rather harsh - after all this is his first published collection - but with all the hype surrounding him currently, I can't help but expecting more from this book.

The stories are fast paced and as mentioned the language is wonderful, I had no trouble getting into a story and wanting to
Mar 10, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll dispense with the easiest bit of criticism first: though it is the titular story, "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" is actually the only story set in something other than what I fairly assume to be present day, the only story to stretch realism. (All the rest of these stories are basically slice of life, NYer realism, with tinges maybe of hysterical realism.) I don't think this is quite fair however, this critique, seeing as how it could very well have been Tower's publisher and/or ag ...more
Read the STOP SMILING interview with Wells Tower...

Q&A: WELLS TOWER, author of
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

By Eugenia Williamson

The name Wells Tower entered the literary lexicon in 2005 when a short story about ennui-addled Vikings appeared in The Paris Review. “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned,” plucked at random from a teeming slush pile, was Tower’s first attempt at publishing his fiction.

For the next few years, fans of Harper’s magazine and readers of The Washington Post co
Nick Black
for some unfathomable reason i've been awake over 50 hours straight now. tuesday morning i arrived at the airport around 0800, to discover my flight had been the previous day. i went home, drank a six pack of beam+ginger ale that a girl had left at my place, fixed a computer, prepared replies for an IRS correspondence audit, flew back to texas...and have been unable to sleep since then. i'll head to work in about an hour here. probably approaching 70 or so when i crash out tonight. until then... ...more
Feb 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
'Hidy,' one of them said to Bob. 'All right, now,' he said.

I'm telling you, she cursed at me. She disrespected me, and she spoke to me in a manner that was atrocious. Hell with her. Now, let's ride down to Cocoa Beach and find some people to fuck and kiss.

I'd learned to tolerate long hours of silence in the months I'd been up here, to appreciate it, even. Yet it warmed me to hear voices coming from my porch, though in the back of my mind, I suspected they were laughing about me.

The scent was
Aug 05, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The most disappointing thing about Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (and to be the most disappointing thing in this book is like being Shaquille O'Neal's favorite meal because there are so many from which to choose) is that the book itself had not been ravaged or burned which would have spared me from reading it.

This book is a compilation of short stories from an author named Wells Tower who apparently never saw a noun in front of which he couldn't place a monosyllabic, undescriptive adjec
Marc Kozak
During the course of reading this, a few different people asked me what I was reading. When I responded "Wells Tower," every single person thought that was the name of the book and not the author. I would probably read Wells Tower, the book.


Artie Ravage's critically acclaimed smash hit Wells Tower is a spiraling post-modern romp in the vein of David Foster Wallace and Haruki Murakami. Ravage's story spans hundreds of years into the past and future, produc
Not as impressive as I thought it would be -- given the rave reviews and the cachet of being picked up by Granta as well as his list of creds. Some of the stories have luminous scenes, and the prose is winsome, but I have to admit to a basic prejudice -- I expect more startling insights, deeper thematic renderings, more emotional involvement (pathos, male alienation, anything)and less run-of-the-mill average American male characters from any short story collection that manages to break through t ...more
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tim said that Wells Tower is his favorite author ever ever now, which is a pretty big deal, and he's been pushing this book pretty hard basically since it came out, so I read it on a plane a few days ago. And it was good, I liked it, but Wells Tower hasn't become my new favorite author evar or anything. A friend wrote it off as something like "men having men's feelings," which I think is a pretty unfair reduction, but which might be part of why it didn't hit me as hard as it's hit some people. I ...more
Mick Parsons
I picked up this book because I've been trying to find short fiction by a living writer to read that wasn't boring as hell. (Too pretty, too literary, too preachy, too fake.) I rarely buy new short story collections, and hardly ever by writers I haven't heard of; but I have to admit I'm not entirely regretting buying this one.

Each story is steeped in a world that is fundamentally unfair. The characters are thrust (or they thrust themselves) into situations where the usual happy ending simply can
Mar 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The humor in this books sneaks up on you, somehow you're laughing without knowing why because the humor is so subtle you think *you're the only one who got the joke. The humor is endemic, it's part of the plot, and it feels inevitable. That's how good a craftsman Towers is.

So much of the plot turns on family and long standing relationships that cause knee jerk interactions. The people don't want to act petty or love so much but they do. One moment they're acting five years old the next they've
Wow. Every story here feels like a weird little shot of brilliance. I can only describe it as "masterful." I had read the title story a few years ago and really loved it but I actually liked most of the other stories even more. "Retreat" has a great ending that'll make your stomach tumble with laughter and sickness. "Wild America"is full of young female bitterness. And "On the Show" is full of some of the most quotable dialogue ever. Towers is an outstanding writer and this may be my favorite bo ...more
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I often fall into these American short story writers by accident and find them micro-clever but macro-pointless, but this guy is very good, and just open-ended enough.
The improbably named Wells Tower had a hit with critics with this, his first short story collection. He’s been likened to Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway and Flannery O’Connor for these little black comedy gems, set mostly amongst average people in the Deep South. His characters are hicks and floozies, hunters and con artists, many of them prejudiced and opinionated, sadistic and flawed.

There are several elements that carry through various stories, including dysfunctional family and romantic re
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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. In 2010 he was named as one of The New Yorker's 20 Under 40 brightest young writing talents.
He divides h
“He'd tell me love was like the chicken pox, a thing to get through early because it could really kill you in your later years.” 13 likes
“If you were an animal, what would you be?" I wrote, "A bumblebee trying to fuck a marble.” 7 likes
More quotes…