Close Range: Wyoming Stories Paperback – Feb 10 2000
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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
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)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
I still have tears in my eyes. It seems to me that I am still falling out of a dream into the wet and chill February morning by San Francisco Bay where I now live. But the dream was of a place utterly familiar. I mean, emotionally familiar, familiar in memory, and evidently, familiar to my body. I can still feel the tingling just behind my cheekbones and the low-voltage electric discomfort in my chest. I guess Annie Proulx touched something in the geography of my own soul with her story. And even in the sadness that swirls around my eyes, I am grateful to her for that. And amazed that this woman could write so tellingly of men's hearts.
I said that I am a middle-aged man. So I have a history behind me. That's part of what makes you middle-aged. When you're young, who you want to be someday is the largest part of who you are. When you're middle-aged, the evidence begins to mount. The past is what it was and that is the largest part of who you are. It's harder to make believe anymore. And the story includes loss, confusion, missed opportunities, cowardice, fear, and memories of your own Brokeback Mountain. And sometimes the only redemption for the past, if it is redemption, is to remember it, fully. That's all.
Now that I am back in the waking world a bit more, I also want to say that Annie Proulx weaves the English language beautifully, with the kind of strength, color and contrapuntal roughness that makes it so earthy and satisfying.Read more ›
I am a resident of Wyoming. I am not from here and I do not plan to stay here. I have little love for the barren landscape or the tough people of this land -- I would rather be in a cafe in San Francisco or a coffee shop in Greenwich Village. But I have seen enough of this place to validate the authenticity of Proulx's vision of this land, to a point anyway. Like anyplace, there are more people who watch too much TV and eat too many Oreos than there are who lead these lives of clenched teeth and fists.
For being about Wyoming, which they fully are, these stories cover a lot of ground. From the Blood Bay, a wonderfully humorous rewrite of a familiar ranch legend, to a story about a bullrider to anti-beef radical activists to a tractor who makes love to an overweight and lonely girl to the crowning story about two tough cowboys and their unusual love for each other, Annie Proulx's imagination almost makes up for the lack of imagination of everyone else in this state.
I will buy this book as a memoir of my year in this barren state. I will recommend this book as an excellent collection of stories from a remarkable writer about a tough land.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This collection of stories is quite visceral and you probably do not want to read the wole book in one sitting. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Theo
I'm not quite sure what to make of this collection. I loved AP's writing style and wanted to be drawn into the stories. Read morePublished on Feb. 13 2004 by Angela Linton
After carefully anylising Proulx character development and precise diction it seems to me that the whether the characters depicted by Proulx capture the spirit of Wyoming is... Read morePublished on Sept. 23 2003 by Becky Raney
Brothers Grimm dealt in folklore, myth and truth using language that confronted, that did not hide, say, an act of cannibalism, and revealed in their stories some of our fears,... Read morePublished on Aug. 14 2003 by Ian Muldoon
It is hard to imagine these stories being printed if the author hadn't won a Pulitzer Prize for earlier work. Read morePublished on May 29 2003 by Cinnamon Girl
The first thing I'm going to say is that I only read half this book. If you wish, you can take that as a commentary on the book, or a commentary on the reviewer. Read morePublished on May 12 2003 by Norm Zurawski
This sordid, dark, ugly filth is not the Wyoming my grandparents hailed from. I have known many persons from ranches in that state and they are hard working, forthright and... Read morePublished on Sept. 3 2002 by Kyddyl
Ever since she allowed a happy ending to ruin things in The Shipping News, Annie Proulx has made life miserable for every character she's drawn. Read morePublished on March 9 2002 by Philip Levy