Bad Dirt by Annie Proulx - review by Stephen Amidon

Stephen Amidon

The Art of Eccentricity

Bad Dirt


Fourth Estate 219pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

ANNIEP ROULXK NOWS where the gates of hell are located - not far h-om the small town of Elk Tooth, Wyoming. In 'The Hellhole', the opening story of her marvellous new collection, the infernal maw actually opens briefly to swallow a poacher who has just orphaned a moose calf. Word soon gets around among the local game wardens, who start taking corporate polluters, yuppie poachers and various other obnoxious interlopers to the spot, saving 'a great deal of tedious paperwork' by having the sinners simply vanish into the brimstone. But then the Forest Service accidentally paves over the hole while building an access road to allow big logging corporations to rape the land, once again denying the local residents a weapon against encroaching modernisation.

Hellish imagery abounds in Bad Dirt, Proulx's second collection of stories set in Wyoming. The entire state reeks of sulphur from mining pollution. 'Comes home that goddamn Jonah id methane gas project,' one biblical local old-timer explains. 'One well ever ten acres. Never seen that smog before in Yornin. You're

Sign Up to our newsletter

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

East of the Wardrobe

Follow Literary Review on Twitter