Wide open like the Wyoming sky

Bad Dirt
By Annie Proulx

I have read few short stories that are as arresting and surprising as those by Annie Proulx. With Bad Dirt, Proulx retains her place among the writers I most admire. The stories in this collection describe the lives of diverse Wyoming residents from beer-swilling toddlers to murderous game wardens. Each story is crammed with detail, which pulls the reader into its confined but expansive world. To read one of these stories is to slip into a cool lake and sense its relationship with the forest, its connection to the mountain streams and its subtle beauty in one stroke.

Proulx fascinates me: she is a mature writer who does not need to tell a story that reveals a great mystery or even a simple truth. Her stories do have a context – they are satirical, they have a sense of morality – but they have no message. Proulx is not concerned with such limits. She trusts her reader far too much. And even if the reader doesn’t delve too deeply, they will have at least have learnt something about Wyoming and its inhabitants.

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