Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2

Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2

4.6 3
by Annie Proulx

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The stories in Annie Proulx's new collection are peopled by characters who struggle with circumstances beyond their control in a kind of rural noir half-light. Trouble comes at them from unexpected angles, and they will themselves through it, hardheaded and resourceful. Bound by the land and by custom, they inhabit worlds that are often isolated, dangerous, and in… See more details below


The stories in Annie Proulx's new collection are peopled by characters who struggle with circumstances beyond their control in a kind of rural noir half-light. Trouble comes at them from unexpected angles, and they will themselves through it, hardheaded and resourceful. Bound by the land and by custom, they inhabit worlds that are often isolated, dangerous, and in Proulx's bold prose, stunningly vivid.
In "What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick?" rancher Gilbert Wolfscale, alienated from his sons, bewildered by his criminal ex-wife, gets shoved down his throat the fact that the old-style ranch life has gone. Several stories concern the eccentric denizens of Elk Tooth, a tiny hamlet where life revolves around three bars. Elk Toothers enter beard-growing contests, scrape together a living hauling hay, catch poachers in unorthodox ways. "Man Crawling out of Trees" is about urban newcomers from the east and their discovery, too late, that one of them has violated the deepest ethics of the place. Above all, these stories are about the compelling lives of rapidly disappearing rural Americans.
Through Proulx's knowledge of the history of Wyoming and the west, her interest in landscape and place, and her sympathy for the sheer will it takes to survive, we see the seared heart of the tough people who live in the emptiest state. Proulx, winner of the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and many other prizes, has written a collection of spectacularly satisfying stories.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The beautiful and harsh terrain of Wyoming and the tough and often eccentric people who make their lives there are again on display in this collection of stories (a sequel to the much-lauded Close Range: Wyoming Stories). In "What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick?" Gilbert Wolfscale struggles with drought and debt to hold on to the ranch that has been passed down in his family for generations, driving off his wife and two sons, who have no interest in continuing the legacy. Many old-time ranch owners in this territory are women, and they face similar struggles: in "The Trickle Down Effect," Fiesta Punch hires local ne'er-do-well Deb Sipple for a long-distance hay haul, with disastrous results. Proulx does leaven her tales of hardship and woe with a dry humor, and she doesn't forget to tackle the misguided romance sought by newcomers to the land, as in "Man Crawling Out of Trees," in which a retired couple from the Northeast find that the quiet truce of their marriage can't survive encounters with the resentful locals. While none of the stories in this collection approaches the sweep and wholeness of "Brokeback Mountain" (the standout story from Close Range, and soon to be a major film), and other pieces are little more than whimsical sketches (sometimes with a touch of the magical), they paint a rich, colorful picture of local life. Agent, Liz Darhansoff. (Nov. 30) Forecast: Though this doesn't pack the same punch as the first collection and a few fans may drift away, Proulx should pick up new readers if the Brokeback Mountain movie does well. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Pulitzer Prize winner Proulx offers a sequel to her Close Range: Wyoming Stories. Elk Tooth dwellers figure prominently-characters "broke, proud, ingenious, and setting heels against civilized society's pull." In "Hell Hole," Wyoming Game and Fish Warden Creel Zmundzinski accidentally finds a portal to hell on the land he patrols, handy for the disposal of poachers and hence a way to save himself a lot of tedious paperwork. In "Florida Rental," Amanda Gribb finds a radical solution to the problem of a ruthless rancher who has turned his cattle onto her land for grazing. Other, longer stories feature people with their broken homes and broken hearts littering the state, e.g., "Men Crawling Out of Trees," in which Northeasterners Mitchell and Eugenie experience the unraveling of their complicated marriage in the stripped-bare environment of Wyoming. This poignant and often humorous collection is packed with well-drawn characters that linger in the mind and heart. As expected, the Wyoming landscape is the enduring character in each story, silently wielding its magical and brutal power. Highly recommended for all public libraries.-Jyna Scheeren, Troy P.L., NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The much-honored author tightens her grip on the laureateship of western working-class America in this follow-up to Close Range: Wyoming Stories 1 (1999). Here, again, Proulx limns the harshness of life in Wyoming (mainly in the mountain hamlet of Elk Tooth, site of three thriving saloons) in 11 unsparingly realistic stories. One of them, for instance, chronicles an arty New York couple's eventual failure to adapt to the rugged surroundings they'd romanticized ("Man Crawling Out of Trees"); another depicts the renewed enmity between long-estranged siblings as they settle their recently deceased centenarian parents' affairs ("Dump Junk"), rekindling unwelcome memories of "hard years . . . with their entanglement of emotional and money problems, vexing questions about the cosmos, the hereafter, the right way of things, and. . . the slow, wretched betrayals of the flesh." Proulx's genius for grim humor glows in wry tales about a beard-growing competition ("The Contest"), a geological malfunction that gives infernal aid to an overworked game-and-fish warden ("The Hellhole"), an ornery barmaid who deals with cattle illegally grazing her land by importing distinctly nonindigenous fellow critters ("Florida Rental")-and even in the middling "Summer of the Hot Tubs" (predictably anecdotal, though it does make you wish Proulx had included her recipe for "son of a bitch stew"). Comparisons to Mark Twain are inevitable, but Proulx's wiry sentences have more of the snap and crackle of vintage Ambrose Bierce, and the writer she really resembles most is Flannery O'Connor, as evidenced best in richly detailed accounts of a luckless drifter's encounter with a violent white-trash "family" ("The WamsutterWolf"); of a young part-Sioux woman's accidental discovery of a prosperous white family's appropriation of her heritage ("The Indian Wars Refought"); and of a stubborn rancher who long outlives the wild old days, his youth, and all the opportunities he failed to grasp. One of our best writers gives us her best book. Agent: Liz Darhansoff/Darhansoff, Verrill, Feldman
From the Publisher
"Proulx renews the Western tradition of the short story as the tall tale....[She] does a matchless job of summing up the human comedy of the modern West."

"Like Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner, Proulx has found a tone and style of delivery that allow her to be humorous and existentially black at the same time. No other writer in America gets away with this combination."
Denver Post

"A masterpiece."

"Annie Proulx is a genuine character — a true original. She has a shrewd understanding of people, a strong feeling for landscape...and a wry sense of humor rather like Mark Twain's."
Los Angeles Times

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