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Bad Dirt

Bad Dirt

Wyoming Stories 2

  • reading group guide
The stories in Annie Proulx's new collection are peopled by characters who struggle with circumstances beyond their control in a kind of rural noir half-light. Trouble comes at them from unexpected angles, and they will themselves through it, hardheaded and resourceful. Bound by the land and by custom, they inhabit worlds that are often isolated, dangerous, and in Proulx's bold prose, stunningly vivid.
In "What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick?" rancher Gilbert Wolfscale, alienated from his sons, bewildered by his criminal ex-wife, gets shoved down his throat the fact that the old-style ranch life has gone. Several stories concern the eccentric denizens of Elk Tooth, a tiny hamlet where life revolves around three bars. Elk Toothers enter beard-growing contests, scrape together a living hauling hay, catch poachers in unorthodox ways. "Man Crawling out of Trees" is about urban newcomers from the east and their discovery, too late, that one of them has violated the deepest ethics of the place. Above all, these stories are about the compelling lives of rapidly disappearing rural Americans.
Through Proulx's knowledge of the history of Wyoming and the west, her interest in landscape and place, and her sympathy for the sheer will it takes to survive, we see the seared heart of the tough people who live in the emptiest state. Proulx, winner of the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and many other prizes, has written a collection of spectacularly satisfying stories.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743273480 | 
  • November 2004
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Reading Group Guide

Bad Dirt
Wyoming Stories 2

Annie Proulx
Introduction
In Elk Tooth everyone tries to be a character and with some success.
Annie Proulx's second collection of Wyoming Stories shares the backbreaking, heartbreaking, and, sometimes, gut-busting stories of the rapidly disappearing rural Americans in Bad Dirt:
"The Indian Wars Refought" follows a young Native American woman's discovery of a long lost Buffalo Bill film, found in a building owned by her white stepmother. Gilbert Wolfscale fights to hold onto the ranch that has been in his family for generations and, as a result, alienates his wife and sons in "What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick?" And in "Man Crawling Out of the Trees," an isolated couple from New York breaks "the cardinal rule of the country-that you give aid and help to a stranger, even your bitterest enemy when he is down."
Ever resourceful, Elk Tooth residents create their own entertainment. A beard-growing competition grows out of boredom during the bitter winter months in "The Contest"; "Summer of the Hot Tubs" chronicles the town's passing passion for building their own outdoor tubs and Willy Huson's creative attempt to heat things up; and "The Trickle Down Effect" is personified by trucker Deb Sipple-"most of what little money he made with occasional hauling funneled straight into Elk Tooth's three bars."
Nature takes its course when Amanda Gribb, Pee Wee's bartender and secre see more

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About the Author

Annie Proulx
Gus Powell

Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx is the author of eight books, including the novel The Shipping News and the story collection CloseRange. Her many honors include a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and a PEN/Faulkner award. Her story “Brokeback Mountain,” which originally appeared in The New Yorker, was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Her most recent book is Fine Just the Way It Is. She lives in Wyoming.

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