Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx

This Christmas present was an immediate choice for my last book of the year. Annie Proulx’s prose is clear, sharp, and witty. An example of her vivid prose can be found on every page, but one line that stands out was in a humorous story about a traveling salesman, “Family Man.” In describing the wandering philanderer’s wife, Proulx wrote, “She seemed soft and sagging, somehow like a candle standing in the sun” (17). Dozens of lines like this are underlined in my copy.

This collection of “Wyoming Stories” differed from earlier collections in several respects. Most were about tough, hard-working men and women desperately attempting to scrape together a life out of the hard scrabble soil and sagebrush of the Wyoming wilderness. However a couple with new wrinkles appeared. Two stories featured the Devil planning renovations in Hell and playing mischief with an ornithologist. These were pretty funny in Proulx’s understated sort of way.

Another featured a tough, outdoorsy woman who breaks up with her adventurous, boyfriend who can stay in any one place to long. She decides to take a hike over the mountains on a closed trail. Gradually, Caitlin comes to terms with her decision to break up with Marc.

The stories with the most power involved homesteaders fighting weather, wolves, coyotes, and falling crop and cattle prices. Seemingly minor accidents had permanent, disastrous effects.

An excellent addition to Proulx’s oeuvre, this third in her series “Wyoming Stories” will not disappoint. Five stars

--Chiron, 12/31/08

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