Monday 18 February 2008

Book Review: Annie Proulx - Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2

In this selection of short stories Proulx (pronounced Pru according to Wiki – it’s been bugging me) offers just the kind of prose that I can lose myself in. Clear, colourful, yet to the point. This book feels like an ode to the huntin’ fishin’ shootin’ men and women of the Old West, casting a spotlight on their stubbornness, backwardness and sometimes foolishness.

When you think of the Old West, you think of cowboys in Texas. Here we have the lesser-known Wyoming as a backdrop with a cast of settlers, farmers and hunters struggling to hold onto their traditional way of living and resist modernity and inevitably failing as rich city-folk and poor rednecks in trailers move in.

Native Indians playing polo, a beard-growing contest, exploding hay, poachers landing up in hell, a heavenly kettle and almost too strangely, talking badgers (I didn’t quite get that story).

I found this book very hard to describe, almost Old West meets the Twilight Zone in some places. Proulx’s clean prose, wry humour and eccentric characters reminded me of the novels of Steinbeck, especially Cannery Row and Tortilla Flats.

I really did enjoy this book and went straight to the library and picked up Heart Songs and Other Stories (which I am reading now), That Old Ace in the Hole and Accordion Crimes. So that should keep me distracted during my daily commute for now.


  1. As-Salaamu 'alaikum,

    The only book of Proulx's I managed to finish was The Shipping News, and that was after putting it down for several years and picking it up later. The thing I like about the book was that it was very rich in detail and light on the romantic stuff. The film, of course, emphasised the latter and the Wavey Prowse of the film was nothing like I'd imagined her. Accordion Crimes, on the other hand, I gave up on about halfway through. It just became too repetitive.

  2. Walaykam-assalam
    Thanks for your comments Brother Yusuf. I enjoyed the short stories, but didn't find The Shipping News particularly attractive despite the "Pulitzer Prize Winner" tag. I've gotten about four chapters into Accordian Crimes and agree its starting to get repetitive, but like the way Proulx creates short vignettes relating to different cultures in American history - the book is rather depressing so far though.