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Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2 [Paperback]

Annie Proulx
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Oct. 11 2005
Annie Proulx's new collection is peopled by characters who struggle with circumstances beyond their control. Born to ranching, drawn to it, or desperate to get out, they inhabit worlds that are isolated and often dangerous. Trouble comes at them from unexpected angles, and they drive themselves through it, hardheaded and resourceful. No one writes better than Proulx about the American west and about lives that may no longer be viable. This is a stunning collection by one of the most vivid and exhilarating writers of our time.

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Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2 + Close Range: Wyoming Stories
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From Publishers Weekly

The beautiful and harsh terrain of Wyoming and the tough and often eccentric people who make their lives there are again on display in this collection of stories (a sequel to the much-lauded Close Range: Wyoming Stories). In "What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick?" Gilbert Wolfscale struggles with drought and debt to hold on to the ranch that has been passed down in his family for generations, driving off his wife and two sons, who have no interest in continuing the legacy. Many old-time ranch owners in this territory are women, and they face similar struggles: in "The Trickle Down Effect," Fiesta Punch hires local ne'er-do-well Deb Sipple for a long-distance hay haul, with disastrous results. Proulx does leaven her tales of hardship and woe with a dry humor, and she doesn't forget to tackle the misguided romance sought by newcomers to the land, as in "Man Crawling Out of Trees," in which a retired couple from the Northeast find that the quiet truce of their marriage can't survive encounters with the resentful locals. While none of the stories in this collection approaches the sweep and wholeness of "Brokeback Mountain" (the standout story from Close Range, and soon to be a major film), and other pieces are little more than whimsical sketches (sometimes with a touch of the magical), they paint a rich, colorful picture of local life.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Pulitzer Prize winner Proulx wrote her first collection of Wyoming stories, Close Range, in 1999. The 11 stories contained here are of a piece with her earlier depictions of a hardscrabble state and its ornery, hard-bitten citizens. It's somewhat difficult to fathom the full nature of Proulx's popularity given her implacable vision of human nature as deeply flawed. In her stories, the humor is mordant, the landscape is crushing, and the people are taciturn. It may be that her odd, vivid language and her idiosyncratic plotting are entertaining enough to distract readers from the bleak subtext. Even when Proulx employs magic realism, as she does in three stories here, there are no happy endings--in "Dump Junk," a rusty old tea kettle, not an exotic lamp, grants its owner's wishes, two of which result in tragic accidents. In "What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick?" a rancher's steadfast dedication to his property and its exhausting round of chores blinds him to his wife's unhappiness with their life together. In "Man Crawling Out of Trees," a transplanted New York couple is alternately seduced and appalled by the starkly beautiful, alien landscape, which only seems to accelerate the dissolution of their marriage. Proulx's vision, like the Wyoming countryside she so meticulously describes, is unyielding. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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A NOVEMBER DAY WYOMING GAME & FISH WARDEN Creel Zmundzinski was making his way down the Pinchbutt drainage through the thickening light of late afternoon. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to put down July 25 2013
By John T C TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
These remarkable short stories are equally masterpieces that one does not get bored reading them repeatedly. The depiction of rural life is amazing.The stories are equally compelling with vivid descriptions, beautiful narratives and brilliant plots. Like The Usurper and Other Stories, A twist in the Tale and the Works of Anton Chekhov, this collection is a part of my list of good stories and books. They made me laugh a lot and I learned something from every one of them.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  46 reviews
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fine follow-up to "close range" Nov. 25 2004
By David W. Straight - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I greatly enjoyed Proulx' Close Range collection of short stories,

and Bad Dirt (subtitled "Wyoming Stories 2") is a very worthy

encore. The Close Range stories gave a wonderful flavor to the

rural areas of the state, the people, the land, the warm and the

rough sides, both past and present. Some of the stories were

humorous, others were harrowing, some were a whimsical mix. You'll

find just the same mix (and a bit more) in Bad Dirt. You start off

with a 12-page story about Game & Fish Warden Creel Zmundzinski (who

turns up again in a couple of more stories) that begins in a nice

straightforward fashion, and then takes off into a kind of

humorous Proulx-Stephen King joint venture (or perhaps

Proulx-King-Carl Hiaassen).

Several stories center on the residents and the 3 bars in the tiny

town of Elk City: I very much like reading another of Proulx'

short stories when I feel that I already know the characters well

(one of these is a kind of Proulx-Hiaassen mix involving rental

alligators--it sounds bizarre, but the story works in a truly

delightful way).

The best of the stories is The Wamsutter Wolf, and runs about 35

pages. Buddy Millar lives in a $40/month rental housetrailer

5 miles out from the center of a small boomtown (almost all

trailers). You don't get much for your $40 a month. His only

neighbors live close by in an even grungier trailer--a bully who

beat him up in high school, his wife and passel of grungy young

kids, one of whom is a 4-year-old alcoholic (his father believes

that learning to drink young avoids the problems that come with

learning later). This is a horrifying and harrowing story--

stronger than anything I remember in Close Range. It's very

tough, utterly realistic, and it left me wanting to see it

expanded to about 300 pages as a novel.

Annie Proulx and William Gay (I Hate To See The Evening Sun Go

Down) are the two best short-story writers I've read in many

years--and both write excellent novels as well.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's good, but.... Sept. 30 2005
By Wild Wyoming - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Didn't like it as much as At Close Range. The stories seems less inspired, a little more flippant, a little less likely to grab you, shake you, scratch you, bite you, gouge you than the former collection. Still very well written, and more engaging that most stuff I pick up on a whim or obtain on recommendation from friends or family. Oh - I'm a Wyoming native, I live on the family ranch outside Saratoga (look it up on a map!), and trust me, the other reviews from us 'Pokes are right - these stories (and At Close Range) actually are pretty durn close to Wyoming then and now (especially the geography and landscapes, the climate, the damn WIND, and the very necessary self-reliance of most folks), although I'd have to say your average WY native is maybe just a little bit less colorful and probably a little bit more of a warm, caring, educated person (though we have more than our share of Proulx characters).
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Proulx dishes the dirt on her neighbors Jan. 6 2006
By Charles S. Houser - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This volume of stories about Wyoming contains four fully developed, character-driven short stories interspersed with what feels like seven thinly disguised local anecdotes. Yet in both kinds of stories Proulx demonstrates a Faulkner-like skill at portraying agrarian locals coming head-to-head with modernity. The final (anecdotal) story, "Florida Rental", especially reminded me of Faulkner's "Spotted Horses" sequence from The Snopes Trilogy. And like Faulkner, Proulx seems to have an underlying affection (or at least respect) for all her characters, even the ones she seems to enjoy skewering.

The substantial stories that I enjoyed are: "The Indian Wars Refaught" about a troubled young Sioux woman who reconnects with her sense of identity while sorting archival material related to the battle of Wounded Knee; "What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick?," about one Wyoming rancher's decline in the face of changing times, a failed marriage, and sons who've gone their own ways; "Man Crawling Out of Trees" about an elderly couple who moved to Wyoming from the East and how each of them responds in radically different ways to the rugged terrain, taciturn populace, and sense of isolation; "The Wamsutter Wolf" in which the human characters are eerily shown to behave according to wolf pack mores. Of all the stories, these four come closest to matching the standard Proulx set for herself with "Brokeback Mountain." Also worth mentioning here is "Dump Junk," a story that interestingly moves beyond Proulx's very grounded sense of reality into the realm of fantasy.

All in all, this is a pretty satisfying collection of stories.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly brilliant and entertaining! Oct. 19 2005
By Debbie the Book Devourer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I've read Annie Proulx's earlier collection of Wyoming Stories (Close Range -- see my review of it if you'd like) and found this collection equally masterfully written. Even as I get absorbed in each story, I can stand back and just admire the skill of using words to paint pictures of people and places. Amazing!

These stories struck me as being more cheeky than the Close Range stories -- not quite as poignant, but more toward the funny side. But the tall-tale, mythical quality is still there, as is the spot-on description of the dusty, harsh, and utterly beautiful star of the book -- Wyoming -- and the dusty, harsh, and utterly beautiful people who dare to call it home. We meet all kinds: crusty ranchers, ex-urbanites, oil and gas workers, mountain men, wildlife agents. Their lives intertwine within and between stories until the whole collection becomes one larger-than-life whole. I got this book from the library, but liked it so much that it might be one that I'll actually add to my collection. I can't recommend it highly enough -- go get it today!
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A BAD PATCH May 10 2005
By charles falk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Miz Proulx musta' gotten into a patch of locoweed while she was a'writing these stories. Or maybe she has just grown tired of the spare landscapes and stubborn people she described so carefully in her first collection of Wyoming stories, AT CLOSE RANGE. The subtle,somber hues of those stories have been replaced in BAD DIRT by a garish, psychedelic pallete.

Gaudy colors do not, however, equate to warmth. Proulx's stories are inflated, unfunny jokes and most of her characters are unattractive caricatures bearing improbable names like Fiesta Punch, Reverend Pecker, Suzzy New, Lobett Pulvertoft Thirkill, Mercedes de Silhouette, and Dr. Playfire. The plots go beyond improbable. A game warden discovers a hidden entrance to Hell in a Forest Service parking area and uses it to deal with out-of-state poachers. A red-furred badger tells his cronies that a rancher's wife has fallen in love with him. A bartender imports alligators to defend her vegetable garden from marauding cows. An expatriate makes accidental use of a magic teakettle found when cleaning out her late mother's house.

Despite heavy lardings of fictional biography and gratuitous back-story, the stories in BAD DIRT smell anachronistic. They are the sort of tall tales the denizens of bars like the fictional Pee Wee's in Elk Tooth, Wyoming might tell about their parents or grandparents. Yet Proulx's crusty eccentrics are mostly baby-boomers living in the first decade of the 21st century, not the first half of the 20th.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the best story in the collection, "Man Crawling Out Of Trees" concerns transplanted easterners, like Proulx herself, learning to cope with life in Wyoming. In the end, one of them flees back to New York. Perhaps BAD DIRT is meant to be Proulx's exit line.
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