Elaine Showalter

Life on the Range

Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories

By

I once spent the night in a very small Wyoming town at the base of the Big Horn Mountains called Ten Sleep (pop 311). At the local diner I asked the young waitress about social life in Ten Sleep. ‘It’s okay,’ she said, ‘if you’re in with the right crowd.’ Annie Proulx highlights this kind of irony in her third collection of short stories about the hardships of Wyoming life from 1885 to the present. Her epigraph comes from John Clay’s 1924 memoir of cattle-ranching and sheepherding in Wyoming, My Life on the Range: ‘On the surface, everything was lovely, but when you got into the inside circle you soon found out that the lines of demarcation were plainly marked.’ Demarcations and divisions of gender and class in the paradise of the West are the great themes of this book, summed up in its centrally placed story, ‘The Great Divide’, set between 1920 and the 1940s. South Pass, Wyoming was the site of the ‘Great Divide’, where four great pioneer trails crossed the Rockies over the Continental Divide; but for Proulx, it is also a potent metaphor of the ‘the great divide that separated men’s and women’s knowledge of sexual matters’.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Since Dylan’s commercial and ideological heyday, the intrusion of sociology, semiology and post-structuralist thou… ,
    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,
    • Thirty-two years ago this month, we published Muriel Spark's short story, 'A Playhouse Called Remarkable' Read it… ,