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New West Gothic

The American short story is moribund. The passing of giants (Flannery O'Connor, John Cheever, John O'Hara, Irwin Shaw, Peter Taylor) has relegated the form to the purgatory of academic hackdom and its innumerable ideological ax-grinders paying homage to a plethora of multicultural grievances. In the 1980's, we had a short story "renaissance" of sorts (so, anyway, we were told) as the teacher class gave us their take on the nuances of trailer-park existence and life in the dysfunctional family. As a school, this bleak lot were known as "Minimalists" (or "the K-Mart Realists," as Tom Wolfe branded them), taking their cue from the work of the arch-Minimalist Raymond Carver. Meanwhile, the New Yorker—despite format changes and editorial upheavals—continues to print John Updike's and Ann Beattie's sugary-sweet cookie-cutter tales of adultery by the pool in Connecticut. And so the short story is less and less a hot topic of conversation in our land of digital everything.

Annie Proulx, author of the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning The Shipping News and other works, makes her home nowadays in Wyoming, the inspiration for Close Range: a collection numbering 11 pieces, some of which appeared previously in the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, and Harper's, most of them set on ranches "scattered like a shovelful of gravel thrown...

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