Maybe a third of these nine stories rank with her best; the slightest seem like filler.



Setting not only shapes but dwarfs the protagonists in the third collection of short stories by Proulx since her relocation to Wyoming.

It would be unfair to expect any of these stories to match the provocative power of the first volume’s “Brokeback Mountain” (from Close Range: Wyoming Stories, 1999), but after a decade of mining the same rugged landscape, Proulx’s fiction seems to have succumbed to the law of diminishing returns. Her prose remains as prickly as ever, but some of her stories verge on folk tales and tall tales with stock figures. The nine stories here include comparative snippets featuring the Devil and his “demon secretary,” suggesting modern but minor Mark Twain. Within the colloquially titled “Tits-Up in a Ditch,” she conveys the passage of time in a seemingly timeless region through a male character who resists it: “For him television was never as good as radio. He found that screen images were inferior to those in his mind…After his youthful start flirting with useless ideas sown by the eastern professors, he had dedicated himself to maintaining the romantic heritage of the nineteenth-century ranch, Wyoming’s golden time.” Despite her own romance with the region, Proulx recognizes in “Them Old Country Songs” that the idealized past was “a time when love killed women.” The state remains a tough place to live, rendered by Proulx in prose that resists sentimentality and refuses to revel in myth. Yet one senses that Wyoming has played itself out for the author, at least as an inspiration for her fiction. If she has another novel in her as ambitious as The Shipping News (1992), which employed a very different setting as practically a protagonist, she may need to seek inspiration elsewhere.

Maybe a third of these nine stories rank with her best; the slightest seem like filler.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4165-7166-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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