Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
by Wells Tower (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24)
I suspect that we’ll be hearing the name Wells Tower “for a long time to come,” said Jim Ruland in the Los Angeles Times. Other than the title story, an award-winner that takes us inside the head of an ambivalent Viking, the tales in this debut collection are “surprisingly straightforward.” But as each story unspools another small conflict in a forgotten corner of America, “it sometimes feels as if there’s nothing” that he “can’t render in arresting fashion.” He makes old-fashioned storytelling new.
by Mary Gaitskill (Pantheon, $24)
“Mary Gaitskill commands her readers’ attention as few fiction writers can,” said Kathryn Harrison in The New York Times. The author of Bad Behavior invents details about her characters that feel as if they were discovered surreptitiously. Because few of her stories “are plotted in a traditional sense,” some lose steam. Most of them, though, are compellingly voyeuristic: They “hold our attention with the promise of revealing what is ordinarily hidden from view.”
by Antonya Nelson (Bloomsbury, $25)
The great Antonya Nelson has brought her hard-luck heartland American characters “into a whole new age,” said John Freeman in the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger. The people in Nothing Right “drink too much, ruin their marriages, and crash their careers into brick walls” just as they’ve been doing in Nelson’s superbly crafted stories for two decades. The difference now is that they’re veterans of self-created heartbreak, and they’re “on the cusp” of breaking through to contentment.
We’ll Always Have Paris
by Ray Bradbury (Morrow, $25)
Here’s a “happy surprise” from an 88-year-old writer too easily dismissed as “the wacky grandfather of American letters,” said Gavin J. Grant in the Los Angeles Times. Ray Bradbury’s science fiction fans will find one haunting Mars mission among the collection’s 21 previously unpublished stories, but mostly he’s focused on the wonders and shadows of small-town life. Whatever the setting, he “hits enough weird and poetic notes” to please most readers.