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Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower

April 25th, 2010 by Jeff Simmermon

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower

Originally uploaded by life serial

I want to eat this book the way headhunters eat their beloved elders. I want to eat this thing the way that dumb worms eat their smart brethren and can suddenly navigate a maze they’ve never seen before.

I’d say I was jealous of Wells Tower’s powers except that’s like a toad being jealous of the sky — there’s something vast and expansive here, something I’m not ever going to be but I can’t stop staring and dreaming all the same.

My friend David Rogers gave me this book last week over some drinks. Almost as an afterthought. He didn’t know what he was doing, probably had no idea how inspiring I’d find this. It’d be like having a few down the pub and then sort of saying “Hey Arthur, have you tried that sword down in the town square? See if you can’t catch a hold of it, just for kicks.”

I’ve been cussing and wrestling to try and turn my own stories that I’ve done at the Moth and right here in this here blog into something more something better than “check out me and my wacky life.”

Now I know where I’m aiming. I feel like Columbus aiming at India, where I’m not gonna hit it but that screwed up sextant may get me somewhere good yet.

This book is a finely chopped blend of Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, and a keen ear for the high musical rhythm of speech in the Northern parts of the South. I started reading it Thursday night, finished it Saturday afternoon, then turned right around and started reading it again.

“Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned” is a spectacular collection of short fiction, but it’s also the title of the last story in the book — a first-person account from a world-weary Viking about the soul-crushing work he’s got to perform marauding and pillaging to feed his wife. He’s got a vain boss and a workaholic buddy, and he’s getting pretty sick of it. It’s hilarious and beautiful.

You can hear Wells Tower himself reading the story here. His voice is weary, soft, and gentle, incongruous against the story’s graphic bloodshed. It’s astounding, is all.

Download it and put it on your little iPods or whatever and listen to it on the way to work. It’s the best thing you’ll hear all week.

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