Annie Proulx obviously has a bit of an Iain M Banks thing going on. When she writes about Wyoming she’s just minimalist old Annie Proulx but when she steps into the wastelands of Newfoundland she sticks an E on her monicker. Maybe it’s because Wyoming is such a barren dry, dusty ole state that she feels an E on the front end of her name would be excessive, wasteful or even just darn affected.
She’s a writer I have mixed feelings about. This is the fourth book of hers that I’ve read and I honestly can’t think of a writer who has given me such a mix of enjoyment. (OK, maybe John Irving who has written some of my favourites as well as some right old shit; like Son of the Circus for example.)
(E) Annie Proulx is very unpredictable. The Shipping News is a giant of a novel (and a very good film too incidentally). It really is one of the great American novels and rightly won The Pulitzer Prize in my opinion. Its follow up, The Accordian Crimes however is a tedious tale of an accordian stuffed full of money passing through several generations and continents and is populated with characters that I did not care for at all.
Her first book of Wyoming based short stories, Close Range was a curate’s egg of a book with the stand out by a Wyoming mile being Brokeback Mountain which is an astounding story and a very disappointing movie – hugely overrated. Close Range is principally about cowboys and didn’t really connect with me.
I don’t think on the basis of Close Range that I’d have read Bad Dirt except that my sister Emily lent me a copy and I felt a little obliged to pick it up. My, am I glad that I did.
It’s a much funnier, kookier even, collection of short stories about the people that live in Wyoming, ranchers and trailer trash predominantly and each one more eccentric than the other. It’s not about cowboys.
The stories are written in the third person, but the speech is mainly in the vernacular, a device used to astounding effect by Cormac McCarthy in No Country… (there I go again, I can’t help coming back to that book).
Suffice it to say it’s a marvellous read. Quick and to the point with perfect character development over and over again. The pick of the bunch, for me, was the Wamsutter Wolf which is a great insight into bad folk and how to deal with them. And for sheer laugh out loudness, which I did, The Summer of Hot Tubs is the one.