Annie Proulx’s Close Range: Wyoming Stories

by Jess

I have to agree with Dan Schneider on this collection: it’s not great.  There are a few beautiful passages, but most of it is desolate and glum — the scenery, the characters, the storylines.  Here’s a quotation that pretty well sums up the poor quality of dialogue in the book:

Bringin me to somethin I wont a say to you.  About your bullridin.  About rodeo?  See, the bull is not supposed a be your role model, is he your opponent and you have to get the best a him, same as the steer is my opponent and I have to pump up and git everthing right to catch and thow em or I won’t thow em.

Um.  What?

I love a good regional dialect, but for goodness sake, tone it down.  Reading these cowboy stories, I keep having fantasies of Annie Proulx and Cormac McCarthy in a battle to the death.  (My money’s on McCarthy.)

B.R. Myers is not a fan of Proulx or McCarthy, as he details in this incredible (and incredibly long, for an article on the Interwebs) article from The Atlantic, on “the growing pretentiousness of American literary prose.”  He trashes a few other contemporary favorites, Don DeLillo and Toni Morrison among them.  It’s great fun, and I highly recommend reading it, as well as any book that Myers deigns to recommend.

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