Fine Just the Way It Is by Annie Proulx

Fine Just the Way It Is is Annie Proulx’s third collection of Wyoming stories.  There are nine stories in this collection, and as usual, most of them concentrate on depicting the hard life of ranchers, politicians and cowboys, and the arguably even harder life of their wives.

As always, Proulx gives a subtle build up in each story, and then hits the reader with a punch right where it hurts.  Drama and a large dose of irony collide, sometimes peppered with a little humour.  Occasionally she depicts real flashes of happiness in her characters’ lives – such as when Archie and his young wife set up home in ‘Them Old Cowboy Songs’ or when young Dakotah feels a rush of love which she never could have imagined when she has a baby in ‘Tits Up in a Ditch’.  But although these moments of happiness are not generally expected to last long (at least not to any reader familiar with Proulx’s writing), events still manage to surprise with the way that they seemingly come out of the blue, although on reflection they were probably always inevitable.

Two of the stories are comedic, and are actually set in hell, where we meet the devil – a mischievous but charismatic character, who travels around in a golf buggy and devises a plan to make life more interesting in certain areas on earth.  In another story, a woman wants her grandfather to tell his life story for posterity, but he fails to convey what he actually feels.

Annie Proulx’s writing is always very ‘clean’ – she never uses spare words, and indeed they are not necessary, because she has the ability to transport her reader to the landscape in which the story is set, in just a few words.

I preferred this book to the first collection of Wyoming Stories (Close Range, which featured the love story Brokeback Mountain), but didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the second collection (Bad Dirt).  Overall though, I would certainly recommend this book to other readers, and would actively seek out more of Annie Proulx’s writing.

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