Close Range

Proulx, Annie. Close Range: Wyoming Stories. New York: Scribner, 1999.

I am fascinated by Wyoming. Have been ever since I was a teenager. I think it started when a boyfriend of mine enthralled me with stories of Coffin Lake. It sounded so beautiful and wild and so far away. Close Range is a collection of short stories that take place in Wyoming. Here is a list of the short stories:

  • “The Half Skinned Steer” ~ a creepy story about an over-eighty year old man who travels from New England to Wyoming by car for his brother’s funeral. It’s an odd story because he and his brother weren’t close. Favorite line, “He wanted caffeine. The roots of his mind felt withered and punky” (p 29) and “He traveled against curdled sky” (p 34).
  • “The Mud Below” ~ a desperate tale about a man obsessed with bull riding because it’s all he knows how to do.
  • “Job History” ~ Literally, a fast-forward version of the job history of Lee Leland.
  • “The Blood Bay” ~ okay, I admit it. I don’t know how to describe this story. Just read it for yourself!
  • “People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water”
  • “The Bunchgrass Edge of the World” ~ Girl talks to a tractor.
  • “Pair a Spurs” ~ favorite line, “I get the rough end a the pineapple every day” (p 153).
  • “A Lonely Coast”
  • “The Governors of Wyoming”
  • “55 Miles to the Gas Pump”
  • “Brokeback Mountain” ~ I think everyone knows this story, thanks to the movie.

Confessional: I read Close Range at the same time as Stillmeadow Road by Gladys Taber. Bad idea. Not because one made the other worse. It was just that they were too completely different books and the contrast made it difficult for me to concentrate.

Close Range: Wyoming Stories sets a very harsh, violent, sad landscape for its characters. Poverty and a sense of futility is in every story. Every situation is a lesson in survival and dealing with the crappy hand you have been dealt. Words like stark and bleak and depressed come to mind. The characters are born into a way of life that has barely any opportunity for change. There is no easy means of escape. The brutality of the landscape is matched only by the grit of its inhabitants.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Companion Reads” (p 64).

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