Year in Reading

A Year in Reading: Wells Tower

By posted at 11:54 am on December 10, 2008 4

Wells Tower’s short stories and journalism have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, McSweeney’s, The Paris Review, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, The Washington Post Magazine, and elsewhere. He received two Pushcart Prizes and the Plimpton Prize from The Paris Review. He divides his time between Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Brooklyn, New York. His first collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, will be published in March.

coverLast spring, it started seeming insane that I’d never read Moby Dick, which, naturally, knocked me over. I’d been warned about the unending contemplations of harpoon hawsers, the glutinous curds in the sperm whale’s skull-milk, etc., etc., but I hadn’t braced adequately for the rabid exuberance of Melville’s language. Every sentence is like a maxed-out steam calliope. Melville could herniate himself describing a pencil. Also, he’s hilarious, e.g., that scene where the Pequod’s bearing down on the crippled whale whose maimed rear fin causes the water to bubble, simulating flatus, and Stubb cries, “Adverse winds are holding mad Christmas in him, boys.”

Other books that astounded me included Allan Gurganus’s short story collection White People (which deserves a place alongside the stories of Yates and Cheever for its gorgeously tooled sentences and huge, hurting heart), Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas, The Known World by Edward P. Jones, Lampedusa’s The Leopard, Dusk by James Salter, Charles Portis’s The Dog of the South, Nabokov’s King, Queen, Knave, and The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts, which reveals E. Pound’s inspired vandalisms against the early versions.

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4 Responses to “A Year in Reading: Wells Tower”

  1. fallon
    at 7:34 pm on December 10, 2008

    uh, wells tower is dope but he didn't win the plimpton prize.

  2. Max
    at 7:58 pm on December 10, 2008
  3. Hal
    at 4:58 pm on December 11, 2008

    The very best edition of "Moby Dick" is a recent publication by Longman "A Longman Critical Edition edited by John Bryant and Haskell Springer. First it is the full text as Melville wrote it. It is the first Americal edtion with revisions that Melville his British editors and 20th century scholars made. First new edition in 20 years and is in a very readable format. It's the full text and also the creative process accessable for the first time. It is very nice paperback great paper and binding for only $20. Well worth it.

  4. Anonymous
    at 10:53 pm on December 25, 2008

    but could he write about a pencil and herniate the reader? that's the question. well, a question.

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