The short story is perfectly suited for the bustling American lifestyle. They can be easily enjoyed before bed, while eating breakfast, commuting to work, or during that lazy afternoon hour when the cubicle walls start closing in. One staff member keeps a short story collection in the car to fill the inevitable lulls in life, whether stuck in the waiting room or stranded at the drive-thru.
And yet we continue to notice a reluctance among our customers to read short stories. To confront this obstinance we've started a promotion to urge readers toward this underdog art form. When you buy a book of short stories at Turnrow this summer, we'll enter you to win a bundle of some of our favorite short story collections.
Our renewed interest in short fiction may be partially in response to Wells Tower's tremendous debut collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, recommended to us by fellow bookseller Joe Nettles, former Square Books all-star, now at Davis-Kidd in Nashville and a legit rocker. He likened the book to reading "a bad-ass collection from the '70s," the kind of book you enjoy all the more knowing that you're holding white-hot talent.
We immediately dipped into this collection and found it was very bad-ass '70s indeed. It brought to mind a comforting blend of two favorite short story masters from that era — Raymond Carver, with his impeccable and unsettling portrayals of deceptively mundane situations, and Barry Hannah, whose wildly creative sentences convey the world in previously unseen shades. Tower has effectively delivered stories that combine these two genius traits without being derivative or overzealous, a fault you'll find in much overpaid verbiage sprung from university writing classes.
The lives depicted in Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned are not pretty, nor are they morose or saddled with stylized gloom. The stories are driven by the humor in uncomfortable situations, delivered without judgment or tidy conclusions. They are sleek, without wasted words and dull ponderance; they move with welcome tics and surprises of language. The characters are the sort you'll follow out of morbid curiosity, like an odd stranger spied in public and wondered about in voyeuristic daydreams. Good stories like these let you follow them home from the safety of the static page.
We could go on heaping praise for Mr. Tower and his auspicious debut. But let us encourage you instead to take a few minutes and flavor your day with a sample of his colorful fiction. Check out a selection from the book, "Leopard," available at the New Yorker site. If you want more, buy the book at Turnrow so we can enter you for a chance to win a nice pile of favored collections.