I heard all the buzz about Towers, and excitedly gulped down the one published in The New Yorker
("Leopard"), and decided it must be another false prophecy of the great new debut collection. That story was fine enough, but no more than fine (enough), and I quickly forgot it, and then passed by the book when it arrived on shelves, perused the flurry of glowing reviews with a knowing smirk.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. A friend told me I had to read it, so to the library I went, and I picked it up this morning to skim the first couple stories, and I read four in a row, and I'm half in love.
[CUT TO: Next day] More than half. Finished up and re-read my two favorites, "On the Show" (set in carny territory) and "Executors of Important Energies" (a dad disappearing into dementia, but retaining most of his blustery, aggressive manner with his son). These all made me laugh, dazzled me in lines and details. There are some reviews below that enumerated Tower's key talents quite effectively -- look to Ryan's
and Jim Ruland's
--but I'd note particularly something another reviewer disliked: Tower engages with behavior, rather than interior excavations of motive and attitude, and that approach sold (rather than putting me off) these stories. He reminded me of O'Connor, though Tower's characters are not so much grotesque as sorely abused and afflicted, but like hers these men and women (and boys and girls) struggle to escape their own flawed understandings and behaviors. And usually don't. (And like her, even as the stories seem to spin toward punishments, Tower seems deeply empathetic toward the struggles.)
Funny as hell, corrosive in their attention to how people mistreat one another, brilliantly observant and detailed, and--just often enough to spin each story toward excellence--precisely, heartbreakingly moving.