Annie Proulx on the range
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Susan Salter-Reynolds visits Annie Proulx at her Wyoming home for the LA Times. Proulx’s new collection of stories, ‘Fine Just the Way It Is,’ is her third -- and quite possibly last -- set in Wyoming.
‘I moved to Wyoming for the long sightlines and the walkability,’ she says, making coffee in a kitchen of steel surfaces and brightly colored cabinets with antler handles. ‘But I’ve had enough.’
The paradox is that while Proulx writes about place, she seems disconnected from the people who live in the town near her rural home. ‘No one in Saratoga knows her name,’ Salter-Reynolds writes, ‘not the woman who runs the gallery, the man who runs the print shop, the women at the Valley Women’s Christian meeting or the men in Shively’s Hardware store.’
Maybe this is because Annie Proulx is a certain kind of prickly person: ‘Her ferocity is literary legend,’ according to the article,’often cushioned by the phrase ‘doesn’t suffer fools.’’ And, as Proulx says, ‘writing is a solitary pursuit.’ But it raises questions: how do we come to understand a place? Can place come alive through its landscape? Does an author have to be part of a local community to invent its fictional counterparts?
In the article, Proulx admits:
‘The downside of the writing life is that you are a constant observer of other people’s lives. I was always the one at parties standing against the wall.’
Salter-Reynolds says Proulx uses ‘bits of dialogue picked up in bars and restaurants,’ explaining, ‘her life is a whirlwind of bits of paper, notes on envelopes, notebooks....’ Maybe she is not a member of that community so much as a spy moving quietly through it, unnoticed.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Victor Lerena / EPA