Scribner, 1999; 288 pages.
A perfect collection of stories if I ever read one.
Even if you’re like me, and you don’t know the first thing about living in the unspeakably rough wilderness that is Wyoming, Annie Proulx’s dazzling talent will carry you through all of these stories, making the people in them as real and understandable to you as your own family. There is not a line out of place.
“Brokeback Mountain” is the gem in this collection. I haven’t seen the movie by the same name and I’m glad I haven’t, for I fear it would have tarnished my experience of that perfect story. Reading it, I was not surprised that Ang Lee was so motivated to turn it into a film. The story is pure, perfect, and utterly heartbreaking.
I like to think that somehow, deep down, something about these Wyoming stories connects to my blood. Surely I have something of my ancestors, who founded Farson, Wyoming, in me? Surely there is something hidden in my genetic code that resonates with these stories of these hardy people who fought for life on these same barren plains? It seems implausible, as weak and easily frightened as I am, but Proulx makes me believe it could be true.
BONUS: For a sample of her electrifying talent, read this very short (three-paragraph) story from Close Range: “55 Miles to the Gas Pump.” She wastes no words.