on 6 April 2012
For critical readers, AP's second, sometimes brilliant volume of short stories about Wyoming, contains covert warnings against living or retiring in the state. "Bad Dirt"'s 11 stories are good to excellent, with two exceptions, the opening story and the story about badgers. The state of Wyoming is said to have a population "large enough to fill a phone booth". They may be poorly educated, but are surely used to and prepared for natural disasters of any sort and no stranger to disasters of the private kind. Wyoming's human failures leave and rarely return. In this book Buddy Millar does return and sets new standards for failure. Wyoming's escapees who made good only return to manage the spoils of death, such as the descendents of the couple who died aged 102 and 101, to sort out what to do with the land and a house full of hoarded junk. Another story sketches the difficulties of wealthy East Coast retirees to integrate.
A running theme in this volume is the Pee Wee bar in Elk Tooth (pop. 80), one of 3 profitable bars there with steady customers from within a radius of 60+ miles. Pee Wee's bartender Amanda and Creel, a regular who combats illegal hunting and fishing, provide material for four other stories.
AP never writes stories aiming to score with a final punch line. When it happens, it is a bonus on top of emphatic writing, great dialogue, and foremost, deep research in terms of oral and written history to gain a thorough understanding of the skills needed to survive in Wyoming (and/or Newfoundland, New England, other states and areas she graced with her writing). It is an ode to struggling "fly-over America", ignorant of the intentions and hostile to any type of government interference in their lives. Great writing, great book.
on 11 November 2011
Yet another collection of beguiling short stories with some central characters re-appearing later in more marginal capacities. Proulx, as usual, provides us with evocative descriptions of the endless expanses of Wyoming, with its mountains crouching in the distance, clothed in spruces and firs; lower down ,the gaudy aspens with cottonwoods lining the streams in the valley bottoms. Characters struggle to cling on through parched,dusty summers and the piercing winds and cold of winter. The passage of time is evoked by once fine buildings and ranches falling into disrepair and disuse, engulfed by the detritus of modern civilisation and industry which have destroyed them. The cheapness and tawdriness of contemporary existence, and the hopelessness and narrowness imposed on small lives by poverty and illiteracy are contrasted with the eternal magnificence of nature. The pain and anguish of these stories is nevertheless frequently illuminated by original flashes of bathos and black humour, always a rich and inexhaustible vein in the art of Proulx.
on 16 December 2005
Sublime! Proulx at her best. She’s so good at presenting the odd, the desolate, the eccentric, the vicious, even the beautiful. Her language delights in its freshness, creative intensity and wry irony. I could read her for ever.
Annie Proulx is simply the best illustrator of the rougher side of life in The West now and in the recent past .
Short stories is not my favourite genre but in this case I make an exception . Eleven well crafted tales set in her beloved Wyoming; the shortest a mere 6 pages and the longest running to 36 pages, but all engaging with a wide variety of totally believable characters . Some would be great company, others best to avoid. As with most of Annie Proulx' work her characters are real, descriptions vivid and her turn of phrase so apt that you really do get down there with them e.g. her description of store bought , hormone enhanced turkeys "breasts like Las Vegas strippers". As for the story titles; who could resist a story titled "What Kind Of Furniture Would Jesus Pick"? Not I .
For me time passed at twice the normal speed when engrossed in this volume .
on 25 July 2013
These remarkable short stories are equally masterpieces that one does not get bored reading them repeatedly. The depiction of rural life is amazing.The stories are equally compelling with vivid descriptions, beautiful narratives and brilliant plots. Like The Usurper and Other Stories, A twist in the Tale and the Works of Anton Chekhov, this collection is a part of my list of good stories and books. They made me laugh a lot and I learned something from every one of them.
on 18 February 2013
Annie Proulx is unsurpassable in her chosen genre. She is up there with all other contemporary writers of the West such as Cormac MCcarthy, Ken Kesey, Larry Mcmurtry. Her characterisation, description of landscape, sense of history melded with the contemporary West and plot all are credible to the point of absolute engagement even to readers who have never had the luck to visit this country. Her work, though so rooted in this part of the world, is universal.