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Wells Tower reads his shorts

BY REBECCA KOONS | FEBRUARY 11, 2010 7:30 AM

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Wells Tower loves everything about language.

Since childhood, he has had an unwavering passion for all things involving the written and spoken word and the realm of linguistics. He recalls storytelling as one of the high points of being a little kid, and his mother acted as a strong reinforcement of his enthusiasm.

“My mother really deserves a lot of credit,” said Tower, 36. “She is very keen on the classics and Greek mythology, and that was all part of this preoccupation of mine.”

The Chapel Hill, N.C., native will read from his début collection of short stories, titled Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, at 7 p.m. Friday at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St. Admission is free.

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, which came together over the course of six years, was released in March 2009 to widespread critical acclaim. The book was reviewed in the New York Times, and many critics considered it to be one of the best releases of 2009.

Deborah Eisenberg’s review in The New York Review of Books pushed Prairie Lights co-owner Jan Weissmiller to read Tower’s book.

“I was rewarded and cannot wait to hear him read,” she said.

The nine short stories in the collection all tell tales of men down on their luck. From failed marriages, to losing a job, to family estrangement, Tower seeks to approach every story with as much grit and reality as possible. Despite these being works of fiction, the sentiment is anything but imaginary.

Tower’s creative process gives him the ability to turn fiction into reality. It is rare, if ever, that he is hit with a “sudden tide of inspiration” that leads to him writing a whole piece, he said. Instead, he thinks of an idea, sits down to work on it, then finds out where its deficiencies lie.

“In the process of writing fiction, you’re tricking yourself into believing the things you make up,” he said. “That belief also comes from just spending a lot of time by yourself and thinking about the story.”

One word he uses to describe his style of writing is “traditional.” While the topics in Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned can sometimes involve the twisted nature of reality, he does not spare substance for style, likening his approach to that of a writer such as Flannery O’Connor. This method allows him to hark back to his childhood love of words, which are very carefully placed throughout his work.

“I write stories that want to be fulfilling, insert readers into a world, and come to a satisfying close,” Tower said. “I do believe that one should sweat considerably over the words he or she inflicts on a reader. It’s a challenge of fiction writers that every word chosen is the right one.”

Though he may not have his eyes set on a Pulitzer Prize, he is content in providing his readers with quality material and hopes they can take pleasure in the care he has taken with the language and the stories.

“You never know how a stranger will interpret your work,” he said.


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