three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
15-Mar-Apr-2005
By: 
Annie Proulx
user_rating: 
0

Wyoming Stories 2

A-BadDirtThe Wyoming town of Elk Tooth, population 80, is the setting for many of these 11 stories. Find out what people do in the wild, desolated West: enter beard-growing contests, grumble about poachers, pine for the past, dream of hot tubs, or struggle to start a new life away from big-city pressures. In "Man Crawling Out of Trees," an East Coast transplant breaches local ethics; in "Dump Truck," a magic tea kettle (no genies here) causes tragedy. This collection is a sequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s Close Range: Wyoming Stories (1999).
Scribner. 240 pages. $25. ISBN: 0743257995

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"[Proulx’s] gift isn’t for bringing dainty new insights to well-known scenarios. She’s a far more unusual artist: a cracked, totally original, homegrown fabulist." Jennifer Reese

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"… it is not just the imaginative plots and the cantankerous characters that make these stories so irresistible; it’s the rhythm of the prose and the tone of the teller. Proulx is a tough, smart lady who doesn’t miss very much. And she’s flat-out funny." Charles E. May

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Three of the 11 stories in Bad Dirt are outright masterpieces, seven are divertingly sly or macabre flights of fancy, and one is a mini-historical epic that reaches for the heights but doesn’t quite get there." Michael Upchurch

San Francisco Chronicle 3 of 5 Stars
"The stories read like whacked-out tone poems. … Our hearts don’t go out to Proulx’s characters. And I don’t think Proulx’s heart goes out to them,
either …"
Laurie Maury

NY Times Book Review 2 of 5 Stars
"… a pungent whiff of desperation hangs over these Elk Tooth stories …. Even in the serious stories, there are indications that [Proulx] doesn’t feel the same respect for her characters that she used to …" Terrance Rafferty

The Washington Post 1.5 of 5 Stars
"… the book has the feel of a rush job, as though Proulx couldn’t be bothered to add color or vividness. The stories are slackly plotted—repeatedly, the author substitutes an accumulation of detail for suspense or narrative drive." Peter Terzian

Critical Summary

No one can avoid comparing Bad Dirt to its predecessor; critics uniformly lauded Close Range for its inventive language and sober themes. This time around, Proulx employs straightforward prose to describe her characters’ often foolish hopes and dreams. Several reviewers praise the sequel for its forays into magical realism and portraits of Western yokels. It’s still bleak, but there is more laughter this time. One story ("What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick?") makes even the most cynical critic take notice.