The nine stories in Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned are full of vivid, acute descriptions, like:
I had a studio apartment in the West Village, which people were impressed by until they came up for a look. The place was the architectural equivalent of a biscuit dough remnant, a two-hundred-square-foot waste shape of crannies and recesses left over when the rest of the building had been sectioned into proper places to live.
Tower’s people are generally broken in one way or another. The streak of dark humour in many of these stories reminded me to varying degrees of Gates, Saunders, and Antrim, but Tower’s characters are often unusually clear-headed about where they went wrong:
Bob had not been close with his father, so it was puzzling for him and also for his wife, Vicky, when his father’s death touched off in him an angry lassitude that curdled his enthusiasm for work and married life. He had fallen into a bad condition and,in addition to several minor miscalculations, he’d perpetrated three major fuckups that would be a long time in smoothing over.
Tower’s approach to plot generally eschews obvious conflict/resolution narrative arcs. Things happen in the corners of these stories as well as in their foregrounds. These aren’t stories for the squeamish. The bone-chilling nightmare logic of “Down Through The Valley” snapped into sharp focus for me days after I finished it.
The title story is a startling departure from the more-or-less contemporary naturalism of the others: a compelling account of world-weary Vikings whose pillaging arises from a sort of dreadful inertia. It’s probably my favorite.
needs more demons? no. recommended.