Having just finished a standard tourist guide to Wyoming that rightly sings the praises of the uplifting value of the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, et al., I thought it would be useful to read another, entirely different "guide book." I have read most of Richard Ford, including "Rock Springs", which I first read about 10 years ago, and found the re-read just as rewarding as the first time.
Ford simply SEES deeper into the anguish, and poverty of human existence than most of us, and then he has a magic ability to deftly capture his vision onto paper, carefully using a few phrases that capture the essence of the scene. In about half of these 10 short stories, one of the characters is going to, or returning from Deer Lodge Prison. In all, they are bitten by economic insecurity. The male-female interactions are almost always "heartless." It is virtually impossible to read these sad stories without thinking of the cliché, "lives of quiet desperation."
In some of his other books he does describe equally well other social strata, but in this one he manages to depict those living a very hard-scrabble existence. You have to wonder how he actually does it. None of his characters find their surroundings inspiring, or receive any solace from them. These are bare, bleak lives, so if you are on your way to the Grand Tetons, perhaps stopping in a shabby bar in Rock Springs, and looking around carefully, might provide an essential balance to the experience.
(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on April 04, 2008)