Wyoming Stories 3
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.
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.