I am having a wonderful time looking through the archives of The New Yorker. The archives are open for the summer. A quick look through the archives will find works by superstar writers and highly talented newer writers. As I go through the many short stories I am divided between reading works by writers I know and greatly admire like Roberto Bolano, Junot Diaz, and Jhumpa Lahiri and new to me big name writers like Annie Proulx, T. C. Boyle or Don Delillo let alone lots of authors I am totally unfamiliar with. To be published in The New Yorker is the dream of most short story writers.
Annie Proulx (1936, USA) is probably most famous for her O Henry Prize winning story, "Brokeback Mountain" from which a highly successful movie was made.
"Tits Up in a Ditch" deals, as do much of her work, with the lives of people living on ranches in rural Wyoming, in the American west. This was just a great story I totally loved. It was also a work of nearly pure pain, of one tragedy after another. It is about being macho, living the John Wayne way. Life is not easy working a ranch in Wyoming, there are constant accidents and unless you are very rich you have to work hard just to survive. But in a way people are freer than those in cubicles, working the oil fields or...
I don't want to spoil your first experience with this story. It is about dysfunctional families, bad fathers and strong mothers, daughters gone bad or maybe they just could not take the isolation. It is about growing up dirt poor, about getting pregnant way too young. It is also in a very profound way about America's wars in the Middle East. Many of the young men and women from the ranches join the Army to escape and imagine themselves as one day heroes. The central character of the story, a young woman, joins the army hoping to be trained as a medic. She leaves her daughter behind with her grandparents. Terrible tragedy unfolds in Iraq, which the characters call "Eye Rack".
I am leaving out a lot of the profound richness of this story. The prose is just beautiful and you really feel you get a deep sense of Wyoming and its wide open spaces. This is a very American story.
There are lots of class issues in the story, which I have not mentioned.
You can read this story here
I found a second Annie Proulx story in the archives and hope to read that before they close.