After reading a couple of stories of Annie Proulx's collection "Close Range: Wyoming Stories" I started feeling the line that kept the narrative together was the familiar feeling. But near the end, when I reached a tale called "The Governors of Wyoming", I realized that they are also about ranching.
At a point in this very same story, a character states that "the main thing about ranching (...), last as long as you can, make things come out so's it's still your ranch when it is time to get buried. That's my take on it". This statement is clear what keeps all the stories together in this collection. In a way, or another, the main characters --and the main plot of narrative-- are dealing with forces --be them another person, destiny etc-- that are trying to steal their ranch.
However, the family ties are another acting force --that may help to keep the ranch or lose it. There are always conflicts between siblings, husband and wives, mothers and sons. And another major theme is the intolerance that is all around us most of the time.
This theme is the main object in the last --and probably the best --story, called "Brokeback Mountain" that narrates the relationship between to male cowboys that fall in love with each other. Due to their inhospitable environment their affair is fated to surrender. But if this is not a surprise, the dignity and beauty with Proulx deals with the characters that is an amazing thing.
The stories have different objectives and paces. Take "Job History" for instance. It is so fast that sometimes looks like a newsreel. And so it could be, because it is the story of members of a family that are so busy with their own lives that they end up missing the history that is happening in their times. And it --history -- is interfering in their lives more than they realize or wanted to. Contrary to "Mountain" this is a very fast narrative.
Each story has its own appeal and is dealt in a different way. "The Bunchgrass Edge of the World" stars like a regular one, but when its touches of surrealism begins, it becomes something very unusual, and one of the best of the collection.
Much more accessible than Proulx's Pulitzer and National Book Prize winner "The Shipping News", "Close Range: Wyoming Stories" is a real treat to readers who like a sophisticated prose, written with heart, soul and smartness. It reads like Cormac McCarthy's best.
Like most anthologies it is not easy to keep a high level all the time --but the writer succeeds most of the time. Of course, there are stories that I like better than other ones, but, as whole, I think the book is so good that it is impossible not to give it my highest recommendations.