The last time I looked at Annie, it was That Old Ace In the Hole, a disappointing effort, I thought. Nothing too disappointing about this collection, though. The title of Fine Just the Way It Is, is for once not the title of any of the stories. Instead, it’s a sentence that several different characters repeat in several (not all) of the stories. Wyoming is fine just the way it is. This farm is fine just the way it is. This family is just the way it is. I was about to say that the characters who say these words are generally sorry for their sentiments, but that would be a misstatement. Most of the characters are not self-aware enough to see the calamity that their imprecations against change bring upon themselves or upon those around them.
You can find some old-time tales here, like the incredible “Them Old Cowboy Songs.” “Tits up in a Ditch” sounds frontier, but it’s as up-to-date as Iraq. Of course, since this is Proulx and this is Wyoming, there’s a frontier flavor to it, but it’s all twenty-first Century. There are a couple of satirical pieces that take place in Hell, which I didn’t find particularly successful. Trying her hand at some Mark Twain, I guess. Maybe some other folks would disagree. There some paranormal/supernatural stuff in “The Sagebrush Kid.” Solid writing that ranges from light to gut-wrenching. A great way to end the year.