Annie Proulx’s ‘Close Range: Wyoming Stories’ packs a wallop. This 1999 short story collection is tough and sinewy, from ‘The Mud Below’ to ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ And ‘55 Miles to the Gas Pump’ is flash fiction at its finest, coming in at way under 300 words and shockingly funny.
Proulx has a devastatingly accurate sense of place. I’ve never been to Wyoming but I can see and hear and feel and smell the country and its people in her stories. I can open the book to almost any page and come upon narration or dialogue that has the impact of a blow to the head. I’ll do it now.
‘The country poured open on each side, reduced the Cadillac to a finger-snap. Nothing had changed, not a goddamn thing, the empty pale place and its roaring wind, the distant antelope as tiny as mice, landforms shaped true to the past. He felt himself slip back, the calm of eighty-three years sheeted off him like water, replaced by a young man’s scalding anger at a fool world and the fools in it.’
That’s from ‘The Half-Skinned Steer,’ a story I didn’t want to read (because of the title) and then read through feeling slightly woozy but fully engaged.
Annie Proulx, you rock!