cover image BAD DIRT: Wyoming Stories 2

BAD DIRT: Wyoming Stories 2

Annie Proulx, . . Scribner, $25 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-5799-2

The beautiful and harsh terrain of Wyoming and the tough and often eccentric people who make their lives there are again on display in this collection of stories (a sequel to the much-lauded Close Range: Wyoming Stories ). In "What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick?" Gilbert Wolfscale struggles with drought and debt to hold on to the ranch that has been passed down in his family for generations, driving off his wife and two sons, who have no interest in continuing the legacy. Many old-time ranch owners in this territory are women, and they face similar struggles: in "The Trickle Down Effect," Fiesta Punch hires local ne'er-do-well Deb Sipple for a long-distance hay haul, with disastrous results. Proulx does leaven her tales of hardship and woe with a dry humor, and she doesn't forget to tackle the misguided romance sought by newcomers to the land, as in "Man Crawling Out of Trees," in which a retired couple from the Northeast find that the quiet truce of their marriage can't survive encounters with the resentful locals. While none of the stories in this collection approaches the sweep and wholeness of "Brokeback Mountain" (the standout story from Close Range , and soon to be a major film), and other pieces are little more than whimsical sketches (sometimes with a touch of the magical), they paint a rich, colorful picture of local life. Agent, Liz Darhansoff. (Nov. 30)

Forecast: Though this doesn't pack the same punch as the first collection and a few fans may drift away, Proulx should pick up new readers if the Brokeback Mountain movie does well.