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Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 Hardcover – September 9, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The steely Proulx (The Shipping News, etc.) returns with another astonishing series of hardscrabble lives lived in the sparse, inhospitable West, where one mistake can put you on a long-winding trail to disaster. Family Man is set in the Mellowhorn Home for old cowboys and aging ranch widows, where resident curmudgeon Ray Forkenbrock shares memories of his father with his granddaughter and an eavesdropping caretaker; the secret he reveals gives new meaning to the word relative. In two demonically clever riffs on human weakness, I've Always Loved This Place and Swamp Mischief, the Devil, accompanied by his secretary, Duane Fork, must entertain himself thinking up new ways to bother the living and the dead, as temptation is no longer a necessary evil. Saving the best for last, Tits-up in a Ditch breaks new literary ground with the gut-wrenching tale of an Iraq veteran who returns to her family raw with grief. Pioneer homesteaders facing drought and debt give way to modern-day hippies trying to lose themselves in the vanishing wilderness and real estate developers out to make a buck—unforgettable characters in nine stories that range in tone from crude cowboy humor to heartbreaking American tragedy. (Sept.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* The third volume of the author’s celebrated and eagerly anticipated Wyoming stories (the first volume contained the now-famous novella Brokeback Mountain, upon which the honored movie was based) takes giant steps in advocating Proulx as simply one of the most inventive yet, at the same time, traditional story writers working today. Borne on smooth, effortless prose, which glides easily into glorious metaphor, her fiction can as easily transport the agreeable reader to the Wyoming of 1885 as to, in two curious, amusing stories, the Devil’s lair in Hell, where he attempts to keep up with modern times (in “I’ve Always Loved This Place,” he is redecorating the underworld; in “Swamp Mischief,” he is fiddling with people’s e-mail). But, of course, it is the American West of past and present that we most desire Proulx to bring us honest tales of—gritty characters, the harsh environment, and domestic dramas set against the hard labor and small earnings of the Wyoming cowboy. This new collection will not disappoint on that front. For instance, “Them Old Cowboy Songs,” about the fateful homesteading ventures of young couple Archie and Rose, goes beyond poignancy to be a sheerly devastating story. “The Great Divide” chronicles another young couple’s struggles with the declining economy between 1920 and 1940. It’s difficult to label these stories as historical fiction, for they breathe such contemporary air. They are timeless in their depicted tragedies. --Brad Hooper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781416571667
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416571667
  • ASIN: 1416571663
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #999,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Murphy on September 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Annie Proulx's trilogy of Wyoming short stories "Close Range", "Bad Dirt" and now "Fine Just The Way It Is" is about a landscape and its people. In the latest collection, three strong Proulx 'Wyoming specials' - drawing on early pioneering struggles (Them Old Cowboy Songs), hardship spanning the Great Depression years (The Great Divide) and life in present-day Wyoming (Tits Up In A Ditch) - open a window into the lives of Wyoming people, past and present. To these three stories of hardscrabble lives lived out in the American West add two other modern well-told stories, "Testimony of the Donkey" and "Family Man", plus the entertaining "The Sagebrush Kid", a story of mysterious vanishings Bermuda Triangle style, transplanted to the Wyoming plains : six stories in all firmly stamped with the Proulx 'Wyoming' trademark. Two further stories are set in Hell - more on that later!

Some of Annie Proulx's best Wyoming short stories, "Brokeback Mountain" for instance, from the collection "Close Range", flow out of the landscape. Proulx's power of conveying landscape is exemplary, with Wyoming's bleak, forbidding landscape of vast windswept plains or rugged mountains often as powerful a player as any character in a story - clearly exemplified here by "Testimony of the Donkey", a contemporary story set against the stark, scenic grandeur of Wyoming's mountainous terrain where the landscape all but becomes a character.

"Them Old Cowboy Songs", a sad story stepping out of the vast Wyoming prairie landscape of the 1880's, records the devastating pioneering experience of two young newly-weds in their remote homestead, confronted by poverty, isolation and a cruel landscape.
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Format: Hardcover
Annie Proulx continues her mastery of the short story.

In Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3, Proulx once again gives us stories primarily taking place in or associated with Wyoming. Her characters are terribly human--warts and all--and her stories are typically blunt, to the point, and full of (sometimes brief) life.

But, as straightforward as her stories are with their plainspoken characters, Proulx also delivers stunningly beautiful narrative language when detailing landscapes, flora, and animal life. Some of her imagery literally astounded me it was so well crafted and provocative.

However, unlike previous Wyoming volumes, this addition to the series is far more brutal to its characters. Now Proulx has never occurred to me as a woman who gets overly sentimental about her creations, but I was surprised at the tragedies she forced her men and women to endure. That being said, she certainly did not cross the line into sensationalism; everything she threw at her characters was well within reality's parameters.

Well, for the most part.

I was especially happy that in three stories in particular, Proulx exits her normally grounded repertoire and gives us something bordering fantasy. Now, because it's Proulx, we're not talking Tolkien here, but two of her stories hilariously focus on the devil and the other, well, I don't want to spoil anything, but it features a sagebrush where mysterious disappearances persist. I think that with her particular style and sensibilities, calling them tall tales may be more appropriate than fantasy.

Consequently, I sensed a real sense of dark humor in these stories, and I loved it!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you read all of Annie Proulx's Wyoming stories ("Close Range," "Bad Dirt," and "Fine Just the Way It Is"), you'll understand a lot about Dick Cheney. Yes, yes, I know Cheney was born in Nebraska, but he was raised in Wyoming and is a living, breathing character right out of Proulx's gut-wrenching, gut-spilling, gut-shot tales of that proud and brutally beautiful state.

Proulx has a gift for the memorable image, for turning description and setting into action and plot. Her clear, sparse prose crackles with isolation, mistrust, and treachery of a once-civilized people gone feral, and her Wyoming is both magnificent and malevolent. She makes you wish you'd been raised in the midst of her characters just for the sheer blood and joy of it, and then just as glad you weren't.

"Fine Just the Way It Is" (a line one of her characters uses to describe Wyoming) even has two stories about the Devil and his vast plans for redecorating Hell, and you'll get the feeling the Devil would do well as a Wyoming rancher or small-town businessman. Even as the Devil raises his eyes lovingly to take in Hell's colossal landscape, you see Wyoming's rugged, isolating, gorgeous terrain of sharp peaks, red cliffs, and vast, haunting prairie. Bottom line on "Fine Just the Way It Is": only O. E. Rolvaag's brilliant "Giants in the Earth" captures a people and a place so exactly, so palpably. And Proulx saves her best story for last: "Tits-Up in a Ditch," a no-nonsense tale of the soul-abrading, body-maiming life of a young woman in Wyoming. It ought to be anthologized in every high-school literature collection.
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