Everything for Your Home's
Beauty, Comfort & Convenience 384-2123
704 Jamestown St, Columbia
Dr. Ronald P. Rogers
Support for your body's natural healing capabilities
Click here for details
Click here for information
Real Estate & Auction Co.
Duo County Telecom
Now Available Through
Your Cable Service!
GUN & PAWN
What's Going On
Info about the
Janice Holt Giles
and Henry Giles Society
Columbia Gas Dept.
GAS LEAK or GAS SMELL
24 hrs/ 365 days
270-384-2006 or 9-1-1
Call before you dig
Directory of Churches
phone numbers and more
for churches in Adair County
Tom Chaney: Even If It's Broken, Don't Fix It
Of Writers And Their Books: Even If It's Broken, Don't Fix It. Tom says all in all Proulx is a fine story teller. This column first appeared 28 February 2010.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Backing Into Spring
By Tom Chaney
Even If It's Broken, Don't Fix It
For some reason I was late picking up on the fine fiction of Annie Proulx (rhymes with "rule").
The local book club read The Shipping News several years ago. It passed me by -- to my regret.
Then the movie Brokeback Mountain -- it was stunning. Seeing that film dealing with homophobia in Wyoming and Hart County drove me to her stories.
What a treat!
Comes now "Wyoming Stories 3" titled Fine Just the Way It Is. Just plain blows me away.
In the story "The Great Divide" Hi and Helen Alcorn look for their dream house in a bleak, treeless homestead with post-World War I optimism. They cannot make it despite Hi's desecration of an Indian burial cave while trying to make potato whiskey to make ends meet. Hi resorts to chasing wild horses with his brother-in-law Fenk, is kicked by a horse and jokes all the way to town.
"At the emergency entrance of the hospital Fenk parked near the door and walked in. It took him ten minutes to find anyone. He came back with Doc Plumworth whose mouth was so small only two teeth showed when he smiled, the cross-eyed nurse and a gurney. Doc opened the back door of the Crosley and pulled at Hi's arm. . . . . 'Thought you said he was in good spirits.' . . . 'Christ, he is. Horse kicked him in the leg, that's all. . . .' 'He's not telling jokes now. He's dead.' "
Fenk comes back to the house, too soon. When Hi's wife, Helen opens the door, Fenk cannot speak. "Her mind snarled like a box of discarded fiddle strings. Civilization fell away and the primordial communication of tensed muscle, ragged breath, the heaving gullet and bent fingers spoke where language failed. She knew only what Fenk had not yet said and didn't need to say. And shut the door in his face."
Proulx creates a world where it is unnecessary for characters to be flawed to come to ‘sorry ends.’
In "Them Old Cowboy Songs" Archie, the young, optimistic husband and property owner sings the property line of his new place. "There is no happiness like that of a young couple in a little house they have built themselves in a place of beauty and solitude."
A little bit of Eden, you think. But before you can pick up the Brownie for a snapshot, you are banished to the land of Nod.
In the opening story, "Family Man" Ray Forkenbrock is stuck ending his days in a nursing home where residents are called ‘Hon,’ ‘Sweetie,’ and ‘Babes.’
His granddaughter Beth persuades him to record the memories of his life on tape. For a time he relishes the recollection until he gets to the memory of his father's funeral. He had been killed by a train while taking a short cut driving on the rails.
But then he stumbles on the memory of his mother's discovery at the funeral that she was one of four Mrs. Forkenbrocks -- all of whom had children named the same -- to avoid inadvertent confusion.
My favorite short story is the last. "Tits-Up in a Ditch" -- the reference is to a cow that tried to climb out of a ditch, slipt and fell over backwards to the bottom where she died on her back.
Dakotah Lister returns bereft from a lover's death in "Eye-rack." Abandoned at birth by her unwed mother, Dakotah was raised by a "trash rancher" and her grandmother who resents every bone in the girl's body.
Her life has been "a long sequence of embarrassment, mistake and mayhem."
As she is taken home "[S]he realized that every ranch she passed had lost a boy, lost them early and late. . . . This was the waiting darkness that surrounded ranch boys, the dangerous growing up that canceled their favored status. The trip along this road was a roll call of grief."
Proulx's stories use the weather as a symbolic accompaniment or sound track. Ray Forkenbrock would not have known the poet's line but he would have understood it "I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day."
One reviewer noted that the book's title "Fine Just the Way It Is" implies the phrase, "Even if it's broken, don't fix it." The book is lyric and gritty: hard drama, hard irony, hard weather, and hard and soft characters destroyed by impersonal forces which swirl over and about them.
I can only compare my response to Proulx to my sense of the ancestral doom of the land of William Faulkner. Caught in the branch of a tree like Benjy with no way down toward relief from ironic doom.
All in all Proulx is a fine story teller.
Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney - firstname.lastname@example.org
This story was posted on 2015-03-01 03:20:31
Printable: this page is now automatically formatted for printing.
Have comments or corrections for this story? Use our contact form and let us know.
To sponsor news and features on ColumbiaMagazine, please use our contact form.
More articles from topic Tom Chaney: Of Writers and Their Books:
Tom Chaney: Cyrus Edwards on the Elizabeth Wilson Family
Tom Chaney: Crime and Punishment by the Quire
Tom Chaney: The Ledger of a Country Store
Tom Chaney: Shadows on the Wall of The Cave
Tom Chaney: Western Trails and Ralph Compton
Tom Chaney: Stephen Bishop at Mammoth Cave
Tom Chaney: Organic Tobacco or Hosannas to the Herb Divine
Tom Chaney: Welcome to Catfish Bend
Tom Chaney: Papal High Jinks
Tom Chaney: Dan Brown and the screenplay as novel
View even more articles in topic Tom Chaney: Of Writers and Their Books
Click for Info
Bank of Columbia
If You're Thinking of Selling,
Let Us Do the Yelling
Principal Broker & Auctioneer
Burton Real Estate
& Auction Service
Call Us For Appraisals
Click for Listings
On This Site
or Click Here
The Best of
Local Stories of
The Greatest Generation
Order Book or e-Book
See who's celebrating
Birthdays and Anniversaries
Special Events List
Find Great Stuff in
Antiques, Help Wanted,
Autos, Real Estate,
Legal Notices, More...
ColumbiaMagazine.com content is available as an RSS/XML feed for your RSS reader or other news aggregator.
Contact us: Columbia Magazine and columbiamagazine.com are published by D'Zine, Ltd., PO Box 906, Columbia, KY 42728.