Tuesday, May 12, 2009

They Don't Sell

The chair analogy, sort of disparaged (see my previous post, Crafting a Chair) in this review of Wells Tower's "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned". In contrast to what Deborah Eisenberg is saying, I was considering that the craft of a work of fiction wasn't at the expense of creating "something that has been transcribed from a revelatory vision." Tower, who very well may be related to me (Tower was my father's mother's surname), probably couldn't ask for more superlative reviews, and maybe that's why the New York Times and New York Review have been all over this collection of stories. Cue here what every critic says of short story collections? "They don't sell." That may be true, but I'd happily take the kudos Mr. Tower is getting (it helps to have McSweeneys and The New Yorker behind you). I may just plunk down my $24 plus 9.5 percent tax (CA) just to disprove them (but then again, I'm part of that five percent or whatever it is consumer group). And I think, the best story writers do with characters what Eisenberg lauds about this one: "[They] aren't copies of anything, they conform to no formulae, the world they live in is the one we live in, and we encounter them, thanks to the author's skill and conviction, as only one particular writer could offer them up." 

But from the evidence of another reviewer, and the examples from the above review, I wonder if Wells Tower may be committing the cardinal sin of playing god, indifferently paring his nails in the face of the terrible beauty he's created. As I recall, a lot of people were turned off by Raymond Carver for this kind of deft and illustrious craft.

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