CLOSE RANGE, by Annie Proulx

Well, that's it. CLOSE RANGE firmly establishes Annie Proulx as one of my favorite authors. Why did this take three books to confirm? Because I mostly liked The Shipping News and I really liked Accordian Crimes, and I wasn't sure how all that averaged out, even when one figured in how much I liked "Brokeback Mountain" (a lot--"Brokeback Mountain" is one of the short stories included in CLOSE RANGE. I read "Brokeback" last summer, and only just now sat down to the rest of the stories). CLOSE RANGE brings it all together, and yes, ranks Proulx high on my scale of favorites.

The short stories in CLOSE RANGE all focus on the state of Wyoming, and are told with a sense of eerie, dark humor that is fascinating--without being perverse or excessive. Her writing is beautiful, seemingly effortless, and some of her simplest sentences stunned me into reading them aloud, including this one, from "The Bunchgrass Edge of the World":
Old Red in his pantry wished for deafness when the bedsprings sang above.
It's a beautiful sentence, even out of context. Some of my favorite stories include both "Brokeback" and "Bunchgrass," but also "The Blood Bay" (which made me laugh, and read the whole thing aloud to Mitch) and "Pair a Spurs."

There's something of Flannery O'Connor in the way Proulx tells a story--though the West is to Proulx what the South is to O'Connor--as well as something fluid and seemless in the way she writes. Proulx is brilliant, quite brilliant, and I can't wait to read another of her novels.


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