Annie Proulx 'Close Range'
Annie Proulx’s style of writing interests me
because I would like to write about people living in the Scottish
countryside who have to struggle in different ways. I identify with
their sense of self-sufficiency and strong attachment to their bit of
land. Annie Proulx writes with humour and originality about the
dramas of living in isolation and having strange and quirky behaviour.
The portraits of small communities with their own ways of behaving and
dealing with tough circumstances constitute character studies which have a
real impact on reading them. Annie Proulx describes a very hostile
environment in Wyoming and yet the people she describes have a depth of
character and usually a long series of challenges without a happy ending.
In “The Mud Below” the main character “Diamond” tries to escape
domestic strife by making out as a bullrider and lives in poverty and
danger as he performs in the ring only to experience excruciating and
violent pain after being thrown by a bull.
“Oh man, get up, this’s a mean one,” someone
far away called and he was running on all fours, rump in the air, to the
metal rails, a clown there, the bull already gone. The audience
suddenly laughed and out of the corner of his eye he saw the other clown
mocking his stagger. He pressed against the rails, back to the
audience, dazed, unable to move. They were waiting for him to get
out of the arena. Beyond the beating rain sirens sounded faint and
The ending is “Very slowly, as slowly as light
comes on a cloudy morning, the euphoric heat flushed through him, or maybe
just the memory of it.”
Annie Proulx can write a satisfying narrative with
the reader only being assured this is the character’s authentic
experience. It is no happy resolution story but you get a deeper
sense of truth this way.
In “The Half-Skinned Steer” the childhood myth
of a half-skinned steer escaping back to the wild brings the gruesome
story to a conclusion when Mero returns to the family ranch at the age of
eighty-three to attend his brother’s funeral. In the dark he loses
his way and notices one from the herd inside the fence was keeping pace
“ It tossed its head and in the howling wintry
light he saw he’d been wrong again, that the half-skinned steer’s red
eye had been watching for him all this time.”
This grim apparition is a far remove from Mero’s
city life of smart investments and setting out for the drive in his
“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.”
There is an eloquent description of impending death.
“It was almost a relief to have reached this point
where the celestial fingernails were poised to nip his thread.”
The author’s choice of quotation to preface the
stories has that other-world notion.
“Reality’s never been of much use out here.”
-Retired Wyoming rancher.
Annie Proulx’s story-telling grip on a humorous,
vivid and original set of Wyoming people is very rewarding reading.