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Bad Dirt

(Wyoming Stories #2)

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  3,072 ratings  ·  289 reviews

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
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by Scribner (first published November 1st 2004)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  3,072 ratings  ·  289 reviews

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Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The cover blurb on my paperback copy proclaims Proulx's work to be in the spirit of Mark Twain, and while I doubt I'd've come up with that myself, it is spot on, especially here. Proulx has a dark sense of humor which blends perfectly with the landscape she paints of the New West. Her characters are incredibly alive, flaws and all. Personal favorite in this collection: "The Trickle Down Effect" wherein the main character is hired to haul hay from Wisconsin to Wyoming, only just past the state ...more
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I didn't realize this was the second in a series until now.

A book of short stories similar to Olive Kitteridge in that some of the characters come up a couple times such as the bartender. Some were humorous, some not.

A paragraph from the NYT review, found when I was trying to see if "bad dirt" was something Proulx made up or an actual thing.

ANNIE PROULX'S Wyoming is a harsh and silly place. Or so it seems, at least, in her new collection of stories, "Bad Dirt," a very peculiar successor to
Sep 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Annie Proulx has once again proven herself to be a literary treasure, one of very few writers who can affect a literary style without the pithy navel-gazing dreck found in nearly every lit mag in America. She actually tells stories, and they are interesting! Imagine that. The language is there: each sentence finely tuned to the story's sentiment at the moment. The characters were strong-willed and quirky. Although I liked the names, I had trouble believing so many character could have such ...more
Frederick Bingham
Jan 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Short stories set in Wyoming. They mostly center around the fictional town of Elk Tooth, with three bars and no Wal-Mart.The best one of the bunch is called "The Wamsutter Wolf". It is about a guy who drifts around from job to job. He finds himself living in a trailer across from a family of true trailer trash. Eventually the husband, drunk, beats one of the kids and breaks his arm. The wife seeks the main character's trailer for refuge, but ends up going back to her useless, violent husband.One ...more
Dec 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Is there a style called Wyoming Gothic? If not, Proulx invented it. If so, Proulx is the master of it. The dark humor makes this an easier read than Proulx's first collection of Wyoming stories. I look forward to the next collection.
Jan 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
One star for being somewhat readable, but there's nothing in this collection worthy of being read. The style is full of basic grammar, occasional and meaningless references and sometimes even a big word. It's boring.

The stories read like a half-edited series of character notes. This is a book that I can bet was published to fill a contract. It's like Proulx did some therapeutic writing in her back garden where consideration isn't given to the reader or to the narrative or the plot or the
David Ward
Jan 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories II by Annie Proulx (Scribner 2005) (813.54). This is the second of Annie Proulx's fine collections of short stories. These are set in the West; three of these stories in this volume are set in the tiny town of Elk Tooth, Wyoming. Annie Proulx only writes the good stuff! My rating: 8/10, finished 1/1/2007.
Sep 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Proulx writes sharp and the stories were a nice way to step in other people's lives. Only I didn't like the story about badgers, the little surrealism didn't fit in this collection of stories.
[Note: I read "Bad Dirt" first even though I knew it was the second book in the collection.] Bad Dirt is set in Elk Tooth, a tiny hamlet in rural Wyoming that's inhabited by people who're eccentric and who're committed to maintaining their way of life. Proulx's stories give us a peek into small-town life, particularly the gritty, lonely, vulnerable aspects of it. Many of the people in Elk Tooth struggle with circumstances beyond their control such as harsh winters, bad economy, poverty, ...more
Miriam Jacobs
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing writer! I want to start at the beginning and read this book all over again, immediately. The last time I felt that way - and did it, too, stayed up literally all night reading the book through again - was for Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men. I have an odd penchant for the Western, odd because I have no biographical connection with that way of life, that particular American experience. I think the attraction I feel to the genre is related to a commonality, that the ...more
Feb 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vol. 1 is better. End of review.
Feb 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A delightful collection of short stories as good as the first one, Close Range.

Welcome to Wyoming, where the water is bad or missing and farm life is under threat, where lunch is dinner and newcomers don’t quite fit in, and where lambs are castrated with a pair of sharp teeth; where the characters are eccentric and the highest educated may be badgers (one has a university education, believe it or not!) Mercifully, one does not have to pay income taxes to live in this joint called the Emptiest
Kat Hagedorn
Mar 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, fiction

I made the mistake of reading the first Wyoming Stories collection (Close Range) before seeing Brokeback Mountain, which somewhat ruined the movie for me. Here's hoping none of her other stories get made into film, because I did it again.

And I'm doubting these will-- the first collection was sweeping, lonely, grandiose, heartbreaking. Pretty much everything you think of when you think of Wyoming. The second collection has stories are spiteful (Man Crawling Out of Trees),
Jul 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
It's a mistake to think that Ms. Proulx just writes depressing stories about tragic people in remote places: it's just those are the only stories of hers that get made into movies. Sure she's got a firm hand with sob stories, but she's also whip-smart with a tall tale and pinpoint accurate with details like characters who are such yuppies that they get married in a cow barn which the farmer rents to them for five grand.
Sara Eddy
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Some of these are fantastic stories--funny, inventive, moving, all the best that Proulx offers. But there are a few duds. It's not quite as strong a collection as CLOSE RANGE.
Theresa Connors
Oct 05, 2016 rated it liked it
This is the second book of Proulx's Wyoming stories. It isn't nearly as compelling as her first volume, Close Range.
Jenny Shank
Nov 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Rocky Mountain News

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Proulx digs into eccentric West
By Jenny Shank, Special To The News
December 3, 2004

Annie Proulx writes of a West that is a touch more colorful than the one you and I inhabit. The first signs of this are the names of the characters who roam her second book of stories set in Wyoming, Bad Dirt, the follow-up to 2000's Close Range.

The men
Vel Veeter
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cbr-9
I read the first collection of “Wyoming Stories” a few years back and it’s pretty good. It contains “Brokeback Mountain” which if you haven’t read, you should find a way to do right now, because it’s just so so so good. And it lacks the issues/flaw I think the movie has. But without that story, the collection is just ok. It’s mostly about the originating mythos of a place like Wyoming and beginning to explore its weirdness.

This collection is much stronger and while it doesn’t have a star, it
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm going back and re-reading Proulx since I have read ALL of her work...and I mean ALL....books on building a stone wall. Good luck finding "that" one. This was the second volume of Wyoming stories. She boggles the mind how in how she researches language patterns and rhythms, names, not just of people but places that tell you all you need to know. These are people living under difficult circumstances in difficult times in difficult relationships. It's a hard-scrabbled read on the lower south ...more
Kim Hoag
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Proulx is one of my favorite authors: she writes of the Western land and people of which she knows, like Kent Haruf but not quite so emotionally breathy. Her drama often stretches to the Quixotic drama of which I've spoken before, but she can still be almost as intimate as Haruf. This is a collection of some of her short stories which demonstrate her broad spectrum of writing. I've never been a fan of short stories; I like to get deeper into characters and plots. Proulx, however, manages to ...more
In line with most other readers, my least favourite stories were the ones set in Elk Tooth but the quality of the rest more than made up for that. The serious stories were the ones that made me laugh out loud.

If you don’t share Proulx’s dark sense of humour this probably won’t be your favourite collection of hers.

But I do share this sense of humour, and also the basic worldview—the geographical determinism, as it’s often called. Annie Proulx favours no one, but shows an in depth understanding
Laury A. Egan
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've read almost all of Annie Proulx's novels and stories and frequently recommend her work to creative writing students and beginning novelists. "Bad Dirt" is somewhat uneven, unlike other fiction of hers, but there are some wonderful stories within the collection, including the very wry "The Contest" and "Summer of the Hot Tubs." Proulx writes dark, gritty, beautifully tragic characters, plots, and settings. Her descriptions rise up from the page and seem to infiltrate the room. Similarly to ...more
Ellen Marcoux
Oct 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Enjoyable short stories that blend "reality" and "magic" freely, with the same characters and places showing up again and again, either centrally or tangentially. The stories have a strong sense of place (Wyoming!) and the portraits of its people are unflinching. Those of us who live in the American West can attest that these characters are genuine and familiar. On the con side of the equation, the stories seem unfinished, prematurely published, like rough sketches of more powerful, better ...more
Bill Melville
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Uneven collection not on par with Close Range, the first volume of Wyoming Stories. However, Proulx sometimes strikes gold. - The Indian Wars Refought, The Wamsutter Wolf and Man Crawling Out of Trees, the last indicting the rich who settle in Wyoming and feel to honor its unwritten rules. As for Hellhole, it I think most of us would find that a fine fate for a poacher who kills a cow moose and leaves her doomed calf to roam.
Sheheryar B. Sheikh
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
As a collection, this comes together much more than it falls apart, and one or two stories are simply astounding. The whole book nuances the idea for me what a collection is supposed to be--and especially what it's supposed to do: create astonishment with one piece, console with another, morally uphold some laws and play with a few, and showcase one or two center pieces that ribbon the package.
May 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Eh, this one just didn't do a whole lot for me. It isn't bad, but I've enjoyed other Proulx quite a bit more. This just couldn't seem to hit the notes for me and I was usually more ready to be done with a story getting to the end because I could start the next and not because of a response to the story. Just seemed off to me.
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. A book of short stories that are varied and interesting. weird and wonderful. Some have supernatural elements, all feel authentic and real. They show real emotions and motivations. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 4.5

These are magnificent. I love how the stories with surprising mystical qualities bookend the rest. There is some great humor, lots of sadness, and much truth in the short stories. Proulx is a treasure. Wyoming seems like a very hard place.
Annie Proulx's writing is genius: she makes characters and landscapes come alive. Reading this, I laughed out loud, felt myself moved by characters' hardships and by the stark, hard, beautiful world they inhabit. If Proulx has written it, it's worth reading.
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Clever, fantastical at times, these stories are vividly told as only Annie Proulx can do.
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Also published as E. Annie Proulx
Edna Annie Proulx is an American journalist and author. Her second novel, The Shipping News (1993), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for fiction in 1994. Her short story "Brokeback Mountain" was adapted as an Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe Award-winning major motion picture released in 2005. Brokeback Mountain received massive

Other books in the series

Wyoming Stories (3 books)
  • Close Range
  • Fine Just the Way it Is