This post is part of a week-long miniseries celebrating National Short Story Month. Today, Picador intern Anya presents Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned.
Wells Tower’s debut collection of stories is not for the faint of heart, or for that matter, the weak of stomach.
Tower’s characters seem to harvest emotional brutality and use it as ammunition in their most intimate and enmeshed relationships. Thrown into the mix are raw images, sounds, smells, and tastes that are wildly imaginative and hard to stomach. They linger and haunt you long after you’ve read them. Take, for instance, the story “The Brown Coast,” a sickening call to the senses replete with:
- cracker bits “stuck in the sweaty creases of his elbows and his neck, and…lodged deep into his buttock crack…”
- a refrigerator that breathes out a “sour-thermos smell”
- ice cubes that taste like “old laundry”
- “a square of plywood showcasing a row of withered turkey beards” (for those of you who, like me, are not familiar with turkey anatomy, this is the cluster of long, hair-like feathers that grows from the center of a turkey’s chest)
- an old fish tank containing a bottle of hair tonic, a “waterlogged bat corpse,” who’s aerator breathes “a steady green sigh of bubbles throughout the tank.”
Just the sight and sound of the words themselves seems to create a kind of literary synesthesia that could upset even the strongest of constitutions. But it is well worth the tummy-ache.
Watch animator Chris Roth’s short adaptation of the titular story here.