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Still Wild: Short Fiction of the American West 1950 to the Present
by Larry McMurtry (Editor)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684868822, Hardcover)In Still Wild: Short Fiction of the American West, 1950 to the Present, Larry McMurtry gives us a depleted West. The West of McMurtry's own writing is wildly various, filled with dead ends and bright ideas, lonesome cowboys and garrulous socialites. In the 20 stories he's chosen for this anthology, it is instead an undifferentiated territory of losers: you've got your sad sacks, your screwups, your lost souls. The lucky have all gone to live somewhere else.
In any anthology, there is usually one story that rolls up its sleeves and clobbers all the others. Here it is Annie Proulx's haunting "Brokeback Mountain," the secret history of two male ranch workers who fall in love and carry on a life-long affair. Her opener also happens to give a perfect view of the landscape found in this collection: "They were raised on small, poor ranches in opposite corners of the state, Jack Twist in Lightning Flat, up on the Montana border, Ennis del Mar from around Sage, near the Utah line, both high-school drop-out country boys with no prospects, brought up to hard work and privation, both rough-mannered, rough-spoken, inured to the stoic life."
Sometimes the poverty is slicked up with romance, as in Jack Kerouac's "The Mexican Girl," a lightning-hot excerpt from On the Road: "Terry and Raymond sat in the grass; we had grapes. In California you chew the juice out of the grapes and spit the skin and pits away, the gist of the grape is always wine. Nightfall came. Terry went home for supper and came to the barn at nine o'clock with my secret supper of delicious tortillas and mashed beans. I lit a wood fire on the cement floor of the barn to make light. We made love on the crates." We read of Wallace Stegner's Saskatchewan, Richard Ford's Wyoming, Mark Jude Poirier's suburban Tucson. Each story thoughtfully renders disappointment. Proulx's Jack Twist says it best: "Nothin never come to my hand the right way." The writing is above reproach, the stories are compelling, but by the end of the book they seem to be all the same story. Surely the West is bigger than this. --Claire Dederer
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:49 -0400)
A collection of twenty short fiction stories of the American West, written by a variety of contemporary authors including Louise Erdrich, Annie Proulx, William H. Gass, and others.
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