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Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned - Wells Tower 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, he's a writer born. How dare I assess a stranger's character? I dare because there are only a few times in life when the hairs on one's neck stand up and the palms of one's hands moisten when someone not right there *feels* like they are.Tower is a star. He writes beautifully. He imagines fully the characters he presents to us. These are craftsmanly things, things I can teach someone to do. What I can't teach someone to do is to see so deeply into the reality of another's life. That makes Tower very unusual.In every story in this collection, there is something unexpected. The last story, set in Viking times, is a complete departure from the present-day fringes-of-society settings of all the others...but only at first glance. The characters in Tower's fiction are all men looking for meaning in all the socially sanctioned places and not finding it. I can't think of a more evergreen plot off hand. But these men all have one thing in common that isn't superficial. They are all wounded from within by anger.An angry Viking...yeah, so? The Viking in question, however, is wounded by the anger he feels at change, at the world daring to shift him into a new place. Like the other Tower men, modern men, he feels cut off from his source of meaning and connection. I don't think this is anachronistic, because I think that's been a human experience since scientific-Adam fathered the first huge batch of modern human males.Why read about angry men, I hear the ladies murmur, we see 'em all the time...yes, I know, but ask yourself this: Why is anger so male an emotion? Why are men so ticked all the time? Turn to fiction for your answers. Betrayal of the trust a man reposes in others is a biiig one ("The Brown Coast", "Wild America", "On the Show"), or the inability of humans to cope with change ("Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned", "Door in Your Eye", "Executors of Important Energies")...in short, the same things that make women angry, right?Not exactly. Tower's men, like the flesh-and-blood ones I know and love, are befuddled by the very fact of feelings. They aren't mad because you hurt their feelings, they're mad because you found them in the first place and THEN hurt them.And they have no way to tell you this. So Tower had to do it for you. So he did. Go say your thank-yous at the cash register, buy his book, read it and apply your confusion to the real men in your life.