Review by Booklist Review
Celebrated author Proulx's last book, Accordion Crimes (1996), was called a novel but is essentially a cycle of connected stories, a form, as proven here, perfectly suited to her straight-shooting voice. These stories share as their theme and setting her home state of Wyoming, a wild and scouring place of endless wind that delivers storms, droughts, and floods of biblical intensity. The very shape and sound of Proulx's booted and spurred sentences evoke the harshness of this land in all its grave beauty and embody the hard-bitten sensibility of its people. Most of the confrontations Proulx enacts are timeless in their elementariness, but others portray the soul-shriveling difficulties inherent in trying to make a living in this land of stone and cold as beef profits fall, a family-owned gas station goes under when an old highway is abandoned for an expressway, and an influx of Hollywood types and other prosperous outsiders wanting to play cowboy and cowgirl turns ranches into theme parks. But Proulx always returns to the basics: earth and family, lust and survival. An old man sums it up in "The Bunchgrass Edge of the World" when he muses, "The main thing in life is staying power," a resiliency Proulx's stoic characters test repeatedly whether they're riding rodeo bulls, risking their lives in a blizzard, or mixing it up at the bar, only feeling fully alive when they're testing themselves against the greater powers. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0684852217Donna Seaman
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review
This marvelous collection proves that Proulx's Pulitzer Prize for The Shipping News was no one-shot deal. Set in Wyoming, the 11 stories "feature down-on-their-luck ranchers, cowboys, and working men who watch helplessly as the modern world leaves them behind." (LJ 5/1/99) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A vigorous second collection from Proulx (after Heart Songs and Other Stories, 1988): eleven nicely varied stories set in the roughhewn wasteland that one narrator calls a '97,000-square-miles dog's breakfast of outside exploiters, Republican ranchers and scenery.'' The characters here are windburned, fatalistic westerners stuck in the harsh lives they've made for themselves in this bitter demi-paradise. They include: hardworking, luckless ranchers (in the painfully concise ``Job History,'' and the sprawling ``Pair a Spurs,'' the latter a wry tale of divorce, sexual urgency, and sheer cussedness that bears fleeting resemblances to Proulx's Accordion Crimes); aging hellion Josanna Skiles (of ``A Lonely Coast'') and the lover who can neither tame her nor submit to her; a sagebrush Bluebeard and his inquisitive wife (in the amusingly fragmentary ``55 Miles to the Gas Pump''); and an itinerant rodeo cowboy (in ``The Mud Below'') whose vagrant spirit stubbornly kicks against memories of his disastrous childhood. Two stories are, effectively, miniature novels: ``People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water,'' about memorably dysfunctional feuding families; and ``The Bunchgrass Edge of the World,'' which begins as a collection of random eccentricities, then coheres into a grimly funny parody of the family saga. ``The Blood Bay'' retells a familiar western folktale, adding just a whiff of Chaucer's ``Pardoner's Tale.'' And two prizewinning pieces brilliantly display Proulx's trademark whipsaw wit and raw, lusty language. ``The Half-Skinned Steer'' wrests a rich portrayal of the experience of unbelonging from the account of an old man's journey westward, for his brother's funeral, back to the embattled home he'd spent decades escaping. And the powerful ``Brokeback Mountain'' explores with plangent understated compassion the lifelong sexual love between two cowboys destined for separation, and the harsh truth that ``if you can't fix it you've got to stand it.'' Gritty, authoritative stories of loving, losing, and bearing the consequences. Nobody else writes like this, and Proulx has never written better.
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