Fine just the way it is : Wyoming stories 3

by Annie Proulx

Paper Book, 2008

Status

Checked out
Due Jul 6, 2020

Genres

Publication

New York : Scribner, 2008.

Description

Pioneer homesteaders facing drought and debt give way to modern-day hippies trying to lose themselves in the vanishing wilderness and real estate developers out to make a buck-unforgettable characters in nine stories that range in tone from crude cowboy humor to heartbreaking American tragedy.

User reviews

LibraryThing member GingerbreadMan
I’ve heard much raving about Annie Proulx over the years, but I must admit my main reason for picking up this collection of short stories was to finally make some progress on my Fifty States Challenge. I’m glad I did. Proulx feels like a solid acquaintance, creating wonderfully dense short stories, often epic in scope despite their limited format. Wyoming’s open and sparsely populated landscape, poverty and harsh history forms a backdrop to most of these, and creates an ambience that’s consistent whether the topic is Native Americans driving buffalo off a cliff thousands of years ago or an angry woman having a scary accident while hiking on an abandoned trail in the present. Proulx is at her best when writing about the days when Wyoming was still a territory, I think, in a sort of brutal historical fiction bordering on Western.

Really, all of these stories are on the bleak side, and there are a few moments, especially in the concluding story “Tits-up in a ditch”, where I feel she’s coming close to being heartless in her kicking around the poor main character. But she manages to keep on the right side, I think, and the emotional impact of these stories is hard to deny.

Two lame-ass stories starring the devil and delivering the blunt satire that usually follows with the tired concept “The Hoofed one decides to modernize Hell” are totally expendable and drags this collection down at least half a notch. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed my first literary trip to the vast plains of Wyoming, and will look for more Proulx in the future.
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LibraryThing member frisbeesage
"Fine Just The Way It Is" is Annie Proulx's third collection of short stories about Wyoming. Her series is best known for the story "Brokeback Mountain", but dig deeper and you will find a stunning array of creatures living in this bleak and mysterious landscape. This collection is more fanciful, creative, and lively then her other two. You will find the stories of people beaten down and defeated by the land, but you will also find magic hidden in secret pockets. In her other two collections I loved the harsh, real stories of ordinary peolpe struggling to survive in Wyoming. In this collection I found myself drawn to the mysterious, magical stories of the sage brush baby and the series about the devil. I loved the story about the devil releasing pterydactyls in Yellowstone, hilarious! Annie Proulx has a fine and orginal sense of humour!
I listened to the audio version of this collection and Will Patton does a great job. His impersonation of the devil, in particular, really hits the mark. He varies between humor and sympathy perfectly catching the author's finely tuned nuances. This book will give you a rarely seen glimpse of the secret side of Wyoming.
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LibraryThing member cbjorke
This is the first work I've read by the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Shipping News. I suppose now I'll have to go ahead and read everything she's written. Not all at once, though.

Fine Just The Way It Is is a collection of short stories, mostly set in Wyoming, although there are two set in Hell, with the Devil as the central character. Maybe that's Proulx's real opinion of Wyoming? She visits 19th century homesteaders, an old cowboy in a nursing home, 21st century ranchers, back country hikers. Each has a story to tell and in each story the place is an important element.

Most of the characters seem to end up in a condition best described by the title of one of the stories Tits Up In A Ditch. They die in childbirth, catch pneumonia, get trapped by a falling rock high on a mountainside. Or old and tired in a nursing home, like Mr. Forkenbrock in the opening story, who would rather die of exposure, sitting with his back aginst a fence post, like an old man he remembers from his youth. Sitting comfortable on my sofa I can enjoy sympathizing with all these characters, knowing that they are fictional and I won't suffer brain damage from a roadside bomb in Iraq and be sent home to my unprepared parents on a ranch in the middle of nowhere.



I have the same objection to this book as I do with any well written collection of short stories. About the time that I really start to get involved with a group of characters, that story is over and I have to start over with a whole new set.

The title of the book comes from something said repeatedly by one of the characters, "Wyoming is fine just the way it is." Every story, although each reveals something beautiful about the state, show how very difficult it is to live there. It should be depressing, but it isn't.

I'll Never Forget The Day I Read A Book!
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LibraryThing member porch_reader
This collection of short stories is beautifully written. I've never read Proulx's work before, but I'll be seeking out more of her books just on the basis of the language alone. She can tell a story in a single sentence and create a sense of place with just a few well-chosen details. Consider this sentence:

"People said that Shaina Lister with aquamarine eyes and curls the shining maroon of waterbirch bark had won all the kiddie beauty contests and then had become the high school slut, knocked up when she was fifteen and cutting out the day after Dakotah was born, slinking and wincing, still in her hospital johnny, down the back stairs of Mercy Maternity to the street, where one of her greasy pals picked her up and headed west for Los Angeles."

That sentence could be a whole book, but Proulx dismisses Shaina quickly and gets on with Dakotah's life in the final story in this collection (and one of the best), "Tits-Up in a Ditch." That title should tell you something too. Proulx doesn't shrink from the hard bits of life. Being poor, losing a husband, growing old - all are laid bare in these stories, as bare as the Wyoming landscape where most of them are set. The short story is the perfect form for these spare tales, and Proulx uses each page to the fullest.
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LibraryThing member campingmomma
I have to say this was probably my least favorite in this series of books. The story Swamp Mischief about the devil was difficult for me to even force myself to read. On the other hand Tits-Up in a Ditch was by far my favorite; it was much more like the stories I am used to reading from Proulx's Wyoming Stories. I'm currently having some temporary amnesia problems which only added to my difficultly in reading the stories as they were very complex, something I would normally enjoy.… (more)
LibraryThing member mojomomma
Well-written, western-oriented short stories that hint at the grimness of life in historical and modern-day Wyoming.
LibraryThing member limoncello
Annie Proulx's stories are a such a metaphor for life all over the world. Life is cruel and harsh for many people and this microcosm that she writes about with such insight reflects this universal reality. I loved her new fantastic stories of the metaphysical. They took me by surprise to begin with but on reflection I find them as amazing as her stories of "real "life and I love that she didn't leave us hanging with just such one story in the book but came back with some more. As always her stories are haunting and keep creeping back into your mind long after you have finished reading them.… (more)
LibraryThing member CarltonC
Another collection of short stories, mainly about Wyoming, with a few fantastic tales - a
couple of slight tales about the devil, a story about a sagebrush plant and a prehistoric tale of
Wyoming, "Deep-Blood-Greasy-Bowl", these add variety but not depth and are unremarkable.

The Wyoming stories are good and consistent with those in her earlier collections of short stories, Close Range and Bad Dirt. I enjoyed the final story, "Tits-up in a Ditch", most, although all the Wyoming stories are melancholy tales, with only small glimpses of happiness briefly enjoyed in a hard life.
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LibraryThing member mhgatti
I usually like Proulx's work, but some of these stories just didn't work for me.
LibraryThing member Niecierpek
As exquisite as ever. Stays with you for a long time.
LibraryThing member michaelmurphy
Annie Proulx's trilogy of Wyoming short stories "Close Range", "Bad Dirt" and now "Fine Just The Way It Is" is about a landscape and its people. In the latest collection, three strong Proulx 'Wyoming specials' - drawing on early pioneering struggles (Them Old Cowboy Songs), hardship spanning the Great Depression years (The Great Divide) and life in present-day Wyoming (Tits Up In A Ditch) - open a window into the lives of Wyoming people, past and present. To these three stories of hardscrabble lives lived out in the American West add two other modern well-told stories, "Testimony of the Donkey" and "Family Man", plus the entertaining "The Sagebrush Kid", a story of mysterious vanishings Bermuda Triangle style, transplanted to the Wyoming plains : six stories in all firmly stamped with the Proulx 'Wyoming' trademark. Two further stories are set in Hell - more on that later!

Some of Annie Proulx's best Wyoming short stories, "Brokeback Mountain" for instance, from the collection "Close Range", step out of the landscape, grow out of the land beneath her characters' feet. Proulx's powerful descriptions capturing Wyoming's harsh landscape are brilliantly done, with Wyoming's bleak, forbidding landscape of vast windswept plains or rugged mountains often as powerful a player as any character in a story - clearly exemplified here by "Testimony of the Donkey", a contemporary story set against the stark, scenic grandeur of Wyoming's mountainous terrain where the landscape all but becomes a character.

"Them Old Cowboy Songs", a sad story stepping out of the vast Wyoming prairie landscape of the 1880's, records the devastating pioneering experience of two young newly-weds in their remote homestead, confronted by poverty, isolation and a cruel landscape. Annie Proulx doesn't do 'sentimental' : what she does do in her distinctive unsparing prose is stark reality treatment of the West, uncompromising portraits of Wyoming folk hard-pressed to scrape to-gether a living faced with the grinding challenges of a hardscrabble prairie existence. Some homesteaders struggled through the hard times but others, desperate, defeated and disappointed, struggled on in vain, had "short runs" - and lost, hopes and dreams swept away.

A special brand of Wyoming hell is reserved for Dakotah Lister in a memorable contemporary story, "Tits Up In A Ditch". Joining the Army promises respite for the young recruit from a life at home full of setbacks where it seemed everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Discharged from military service in Iraq, Dakotah returns home to Wyoming to the realisation that her past sufferings - at home and in Iraq - may pale in comparison with what her future holds in store..... Another modern story, "Family Man", recounts the recollections of old, 80+ ranch-hand Ray Forkenbrock, seeing out his days in a nursing home. But something weighing heavily on his mind rankles Ray : dirty laundry - an ugly family secret of an "old betrayal" he's kept bottled up inside himself for years.....

As well as recounting strange, ongoing occurrences of inexplicable disappearances of man and beast down the years, "The Sagebrush Kid" has a strong sense of the wheels of history turning as the winds of change swept through Wyoming - the stagecoach business consigned to history by the Union Pacific Railroad pushing through, old stage roads swallowed up in time by interstate highway, huge chunks of prairie vanishing under the drills of oil and gas exploration. This tall tale gives pause for thought.

Two stories, comic interludes really, are set in Hell - yes HELL! Outwith the bounds of Wyoming altogether! OUTSIDERS! Trespassers from Hell wandering like stray mavericks into country where they don't rightfully belong - and looking oddly out of place among prime stock. Range wars have broken out for less! Long-time followers of Annie Proulx's topnotch Wyoming stories, past and present, may view the stories from Hell as being out of kilter - interlopers into 'settled territory' that was fine just the way it was. After all, "who needs Hell when you've got Wyoming?"
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LibraryThing member Libra500
Another collection of exceptional stories. I loved how so much was conveyed with so little words, and how time and place was evoked with so little exposition. Proulx is obviously turning her thoughts more towards mortality as she becomes older, and this collection is even bleaker and death-focussed than her ealrier works. It's safe to say she is not optimistic. Bleak, but fabulous.… (more)
LibraryThing member jpackham
Another great collection of short stories by one of my favorite authors.
LibraryThing member LDVoorberg
Sorry to say I didn't finish this one. I'm sure the stories are good, but the reader on the CD is so soft and quiet and monotone that I found myself tuning out more than usual -- as in, all the time. Not the kind of stories or voice you look for in selecting a book to listen to while driving. Wyoming just doesn't hold appeal for me, I guess.… (more)
LibraryThing member Ameise1
This book comprises nine short stories which are set out in Wyoming. The stories are from different times from 1885 up until our date. What they've got in common is that all are showing the families hard way of life. They are struggling every day for getting something to eat, finding an occupation and earning money, raising up a family and the failure of it and love that never could be fulfilled. I had the feeling, that those are very sad stories and luck must live on another planet.… (more)
LibraryThing member byebyelibrary
One of the best audiobooks I have had the pleasure of listening to in a long time. Ann Proulx's stories are funny and heartbreaking and almost shocking in their authenticity. Will Patton is the perfect narrator, sure-handed and understated. Cannot recommend this audiobook enough.
LibraryThing member bensdad00
As the second collection I have read by her, it was nice to see an expanded range of topics this time around. All of the stories are enjoyable for their completely human protagonists and the unpredictable nature of the plotting.
LibraryThing member FredB
This set of short stories by Annie Proulx depicts life in Wyoming, a harsh place with harsh people.

Many of the stories are about sad, lonely or forgotten people. One of them is specifically about a couple (named Rose and Archie McClaverty) who buy a piece of land and then, through a series of events disappear and are forgotten.

The last story was the best, about a girl named Dakota, who is born to a mother that runs away just after she is born./ She is raised by her grandparents on a ranch. Eventually she marries, gets divorced, has a child and joins the military.
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LibraryThing member deldevries
Another unusual group of stories! Gloom, despair, and unhappy endings!
LibraryThing member theageofsilt
The settings are vividly described -- Wyoming, where the snows blows until it just get worn away. The characters are also well realized with believable, but peculiar names. I enjoyed the stories of ranch life and death and failure to thrive in the wilderness. There are stories about the Devil which I didn't enjoy, except for the "fact" that the Devil has assistant named Duane Fork.… (more)

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