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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

One of my favorite obscure writers is about to become a lost less obscure; Wells Tower's first collection of short stories is coming out after a too-long wait. I've taught Towers's Viking-flavored story "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" a few times and I appreciate it more each time I read it. Knowing nothing about the circumstances of its writing beyond its original publication date (2002), I see it as one of the great fictional commentaries on the psychic state of post-9/11 America. The ending, still, just kills me.

Purist that I am, I'll quote the original version here behind a [+/-], which I think is better than the book's slightly modified version. But don't read it until you've read the whole thing, or unless you're existentially certain you never will.

Where had the good times gone? I didn't know, but when Pila and me had our little twins and we put a family together, I got an understanding of how terrible love can be. You wish you hated those people, your wife and children, because you know what awful things the world will do to them, because you have done some of those things yourself. It's crazy-making, but you cling to them with everything and close your eyes against the rest of it. But still you wake up late at night and lie there listening for the creak and splash of oars, the clank of steel, the sound of men rowing toward your home.