Modern Vikings? Tower’s “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned”

Well, since I can’t sound smart anymore about my reading of “Going to the Dogs,” I suppose that I can attempt at “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned.”

To me, this is the best story that we have read by Wells Tower. Perhaps it is the fact that it is so engrossing, that there is always something happening, that we feel that there is a point to all the madness that is going around. It is a strange story. We have vikings who speak in a modern vernacular, looting, incredible violence, a ‘spread eagle,’ and — could we call it a kidnapping? — of Mary.  But at the end, there is a shift, and I understand as a reader that whatever introspective universe that I have been in with Harald is really just the premise for feeling out the deep emotion that one can have for another human being. For all of his other stories, the characters have never been able to express this emotion, if any emotion at all. We have brothers who are too proud to admit defeat, a son who won’t reconcile himself to his forgetting father, a man who can’t let go of his ex-wife, an old man wanting closeness, and then finally a viking — the most emotionally stripped man you would expect who nevertheless tells the reader that he is afraid of the love he feels. This is so ironic but yet so wonderful at the same time because it all seems worthwhile to finally see the emotion that Tower wants the reader to see out of his stories: the fear of emotion.  I think that this is why I enjoy this so much, and perhaps why I am able to give a closure to my infuriation over the characters’ inability to do anything in the previous stories.

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