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Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 Hardcover – September 9, 2008
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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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*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
Top customer reviews
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.
This review was first posted on Shelfari.