ISBN is

978-0-684-85221-8 / 0684852217

Close Range: Wyoming Stories

by Proulx, Annie

Publisher:Scribner

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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About the book:

With the very first sentence of the first story in this remarkable collection, Annie Proulx demonstrates what makes her great: images sharp as paper cuts conveyed in language so imaginative and compressed it's just this side of poetry; a sense of character so specific it takes only a sentence to establish a whole life; and the underlying promise of something utterly unexpected waiting just up ahead.

In the long unfurling of his life, from tight-wound kid hustler in a wool suit riding the train out of Cheyenne to geriatric limper in this spooled-out year, Mero had kicked down thoughts of the place where he began, a so-called ranch on strange ground at the south hinge of the Big Horns.
"The Half-Skinned Steer" chronicles elderly Mero Corn's journey back to Wyoming for his brother's funeral. As he drives west, details of his eventful trip are interspersed with recollections of his youth on the ranch--most notably a tall tale he heard told long ago about a sad-sack rancher named Tin Head and a butchered steer. This is vintage Proulx, a combination of isolated landscapes, macabre events, and damaged people that adds up, in the end, to a near-perfect story. It's no surprise that "The Half-Skinned Steer" made it into John Updike's Best American Short Stories of the Century.

Proulx achieves similar results with many of the other stories in Close Range, including another prizewinner, "Brokeback Mountain," the bittersweet story of doomed love between two cowboys who "can't hardly be decent together," yet know "if we do that in the wrong place we'll be dead." But Proulx is careful to add some leavening to the mix. In "The Blood Bay" she indulges her taste for the gruesome with a morbidly amusing retelling of an Old West shaggy-dog story, while "Pair a Spurs" is the sad-funny rendering of divorce, Wyoming style. The author is a true original in every sense of the word, and her evocation of the West is as singular and surprising as that of Cormac McCarthy or Ivan Doig. Close Range is Proulx at her best. --Alix Wilber

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