“This arresting debut collection of stories decisively establishes Mr. Tower as a writer of uncommon talent.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
One of my favorite moments in Wells Tower's debut collection of short stories does not concern any of his human characters at all. It comes right after a family dinner in a Manhattan restaurant has gone horribly wrong, in the way things do when people bound to each other through years of ill will and forced intimacy are confined to a small public space in which they have no choice but to act out major battles under the constraint of public decorum. A group of men stands on the sidewalk in uneasy camaraderie, uncertain what exactly they've done to drive away the sole woman at their table, and not even sure if they can trust each other to get out of the fix. One of the participants notices a pigeon pecking at a cocktail sword. "It got the blade in its beak," he says, "and waddled proudly down the street and vanished, turning right on Minetta Lane."
Whatever purpose the pigeon has in mind for his cast-off piece of treasure, it seems unlikely it will come in handy for any battles that may lurk around the corners of charming lanes in Greenwich Village (though one would not presume to know what gentrification looks like from a pigeon's-eye view). Many of Tower's characters are similarly outfitted with absurd, most likely useless weapons that plump them up with temporary bravado without really helping things out much.