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Still Wild: Short Fiction of the American West 1950 to the Present

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Larry McMurtry, the preeminent chronicler of the American West, celebrates the best of contemporary Western short fiction, introducing a stellar collection of twenty stories that represent, in various ways, the coming-of-age of the legendary American frontier. Featuring a veritable Who's Who of the century's most distinctive writers, this collection effectively departs from Larry McMurtry, the preeminent chronicler of the American West, celebrates the best of contemporary Western short fiction, introducing a stellar collection of twenty stories that represent, in various ways, the coming-of-age of the legendary American frontier. Featuring a veritable Who's Who of the century's most distinctive writers, this collection effectively departs from the standard superstars of the Western genre. McMurtry has chosen a refreshing range of work that, when taken as a whole, depicts the evolution and maturation of Western writing over several decades. The featured tales are not so concerned with the American West of history and geography as they are with the American West of the imagination—one that is alternately comic, gritty, individual, searing, and complex. Including authors such as Jack Kerouac, Wallace Stegner, Raymond Carver, Annie Proulx, and Diana Ossana, this collection captures the real Western canon like no other.


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Larry McMurtry, the preeminent chronicler of the American West, celebrates the best of contemporary Western short fiction, introducing a stellar collection of twenty stories that represent, in various ways, the coming-of-age of the legendary American frontier. Featuring a veritable Who's Who of the century's most distinctive writers, this collection effectively departs from Larry McMurtry, the preeminent chronicler of the American West, celebrates the best of contemporary Western short fiction, introducing a stellar collection of twenty stories that represent, in various ways, the coming-of-age of the legendary American frontier. Featuring a veritable Who's Who of the century's most distinctive writers, this collection effectively departs from the standard superstars of the Western genre. McMurtry has chosen a refreshing range of work that, when taken as a whole, depicts the evolution and maturation of Western writing over several decades. The featured tales are not so concerned with the American West of history and geography as they are with the American West of the imagination—one that is alternately comic, gritty, individual, searing, and complex. Including authors such as Jack Kerouac, Wallace Stegner, Raymond Carver, Annie Proulx, and Diana Ossana, this collection captures the real Western canon like no other.

30 review for Still Wild: Short Fiction of the American West 1950 to the Present

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    Larry McMurtry's collection of short fiction represents the American West from a perspective that is often wonky and off-kilter. It suggests that the people in these stories could be found just about anywhere in the U.S. but their location in the vast, "still wild" region beyond the 100th meridian infuses their lives with a kind of remoteness, isolation, and melancholy. A Nebraska farm couple in Ron Hansen's "True Romance" finds their livestock the prey of something far more sinister than coyote Larry McMurtry's collection of short fiction represents the American West from a perspective that is often wonky and off-kilter. It suggests that the people in these stories could be found just about anywhere in the U.S. but their location in the vast, "still wild" region beyond the 100th meridian infuses their lives with a kind of remoteness, isolation, and melancholy. A Nebraska farm couple in Ron Hansen's "True Romance" finds their livestock the prey of something far more sinister than coyotes. A Texas truck driver has a career as an Elvis impersonator in William Hauptman's "Good Rockin' Tonight." A Californian with a family of Vietnamese in-laws is accused by a neighbor of shooting his pit bull in Dao Strom's "Chickens." In New Mexico, a father and his soon-to-be-disillusioned teenage son hit the road to keep at least one step ahead of trouble in Robert Boswell's "Glissando." Meanwhile, an Indian baseball team with a one-armed pitcher goes on the road in the Dakotas during the worst years of the Dust Bowl in Jon Billman's "Indians." And there's Annie Proulx's story of those two Wyoming cowboys who find love on "Brokeback Mountain." It's a fine, entertaining collection, though one might question the inclusion of excerpts from novels (Jack Kerouac and Louise Erdrich) and William Gass's novella "The Pedersen Kid," when there are so many other fine writers of short stories, Maile Meloy, David Long, William Kittredge, Sherman Alexie, and Adrian Louis to name a few. But this is a minor quibble in a volume that belongs on any shelf of literature of the American West.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Taylor

    Enjoyed so far "Buglesong" by Wallace Stegner. An image that remains is of the young boy lying on the baked earth reading his poetry lesson for school while he waits to hear the metal "clash" of his gopher traps successfully setting. Moving seamlessly from Tennyson to the wounded gopher, the boy with fascinated detachment is struck by the animals eyes: "Its eyes, the boy noticed impersonally, were shining black, like the head of a hatpin. He thought it odd that when they popped out of the head a Enjoyed so far "Buglesong" by Wallace Stegner. An image that remains is of the young boy lying on the baked earth reading his poetry lesson for school while he waits to hear the metal "clash" of his gopher traps successfully setting. Moving seamlessly from Tennyson to the wounded gopher, the boy with fascinated detachment is struck by the animals eyes: "Its eyes, the boy noticed impersonally, were shining black, like the head of a hatpin. He thought it odd that when they popped out of the head after a blow they were blue."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alegria

    One of the short stories is Brokeback Mountain. I saw the movie (or tried to - I fell asleep), so I really didn't know the story until I read it. Amazing. But each story is unique and in some ways made me very homesick. There is nothing like driving through the desert on a full moon night to make you feel alive. One of the short stories is Brokeback Mountain. I saw the movie (or tried to - I fell asleep), so I really didn't know the story until I read it. Amazing. But each story is unique and in some ways made me very homesick. There is nothing like driving through the desert on a full moon night to make you feel alive.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Richard Jespers

    Excellent collection. McMurtry has a great eye and ear for the short story. I believe “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx is in this collection. [But I can’t prove it BECAUSE SOMEONE HAS FAILED TO RETURN MY COPY. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.] Also stories by Mark Jude Poirier, Louise Erdrich, and Rick Bass, favorite writers of mine.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Thabata

    What a tremendous journey this book was. I was completely mesmerized by the collection of short stories Larry McMurtry assembled for this book - a wide range of characters under what I can only call the discomfort of the unknown, here represented by the vast, harsh and untamed lands of the West.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carla

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. From my vantage as a fairly, well-read in but no expert on fiction of the American West, it seems to me like Larry McMurtry did a good job pulling together an engaging collection. But beware -- most stories are heartbreaking with little hope for anything other than either an impoverished spiritual redemption or a broke dystopian freedom. The stories are arranged from least devastating to most. No money to spend, no person to hold, no future to dream of - a west that is 'still wild' in terms of e From my vantage as a fairly, well-read in but no expert on fiction of the American West, it seems to me like Larry McMurtry did a good job pulling together an engaging collection. But beware -- most stories are heartbreaking with little hope for anything other than either an impoverished spiritual redemption or a broke dystopian freedom. The stories are arranged from least devastating to most. No money to spend, no person to hold, no future to dream of - a west that is 'still wild' in terms of everyone out for their own with little margin for compassion, forgiveness, mistakes, regrets. McMurty seems to suggest that the American West since the 1950s has only stale broken dreams or grubby realities of poverty, family dysfunction, and too much escape being sought for in pills, booze, and violence. ------ WALLACE STEGNER, Buglesong - kid learns about violence from trapping weasels that he saves for their winter ermine coats. DAVE HICKEY, The Closed Season DAO STROM, Chickens - powerful story about a California man who ends up with a small farm and a large extended family after marrying a wife who has to then emigrate from Vietnam. A neighbor accuses him of killing his dog and the family unravels. DAGOBERTO GILB, Romero’s Shirt - great little story about Romero who has a favorite shirt WILLIAM HAUPTMAN, Good Rockin’ Tonight JACK KEROUAC, The Mexican Girl - moderately offensive, a chapter from On the Road RON HANSEN, True Romance DIANA OSSANA, White Line Fever ROBERT BOSWELL, Glissando TOM MCGUANE, Dogs LOUISE ERDRICH, The Red Convertible - chapter from Love Medicine about the brothers who bought a car together, then one of the brothers Henry Lamartine goes to war, returns very different, and in the end, Lyman Lamartine, watch his brother drown himself and Lyman send the car in with him. Love Medicine is one of the most powerful and saddest books I have read in my life. Even summarizing this chapter brings me to tears. MAX APPLE, Gas Stations MARK JUDE POIRIER, Cul-de-sacs RICK BASS, Mahatma Joe JON BILLMAN, Indians - strange story about a b-league, travelling Indian baseball team. Tension around how the narrator of the story who is the only white guy on the team and the team's manager goes about convincing teams from small rural towns to play and pay. Narrator claims that the drought will end if the Indians win - the pitcher, the narrator's friend, grows estranged over time. RICHARD FORD, Rock Springs - guy steals a car and starts to drive his girlfriend Edna, his daughter Cheryl and her little dog Duke. They have car trouble and end up staying for a bit in this gold-mining town. Edna plans on returning home and our narrator just doesn't want any trouble. RAYMOND CARVER, The Third Thing That Killed My Father Off - Story about a guy named Dummy who stocked his reservoir pond with bass but then would not let people fish there. Dummy lost friends. And then the pond overflowed and Dummy killed his wife and himself ANNIE PROULX, Brokeback Mountain - I heard about the movie first and then the short story. I have not seen the movie and only read the story because I am fastidious about completing books that I post here as read. I never wanted to read it because I knew I would cry. Although I am not sure how good of a story it is, I do know that such stories are rarely if ever told and I am pleased to have read the story for how Proulx writes down what a story that is know but rarely told. LESLIE MARMON SILKO, Lullaby -- tragic short story about a woman holding tight to a lullaby from her childhood, a lullaby that affirms that we are altogether as part of the sky and the earth, a lullaby salvaged from the horrific destruction of families that Euro-American colonial-settlers wrought on Native families in the US. WILLIAM H. GASS, The Pedersen Kid -- poor, isolated rural family with an alcoholic and abusive father, scared and cowering mother, angry eldest son home from the war, and the younger brother who is the narrator. The story is full of pathos - sadness, violence, ending with a depiction of a shelled-out young man who is happy to be alone if it means he is safe. The story evoked one of those sad images that will stay with me: "Down a long green hill there was a line of sheep. It had been my favorite picture in a book I’d had when I was eight. There were no people in it. I’d been mad and Pa had laughed. I’d had it since my birthday in the spring. Then he’d hid it. It was when we had the privy in the back. God, it was cold in there, dark beneath. I found it in the privy torn apart and on the freezing soggy floor in leaves. And down the hole I saw floating curly sheep. There was even ice. I’d been seized, and was rolling and kicking. Pa had struck himself and laughed. I only saved a red-cheeked fat-faced boy in blue I didn’t like. The cow was torn. Ma’d said I’d get another one someday. For a while, every day, even though the snow was piled and the sky dead and the winter wind was blowing, I watched for my aunt to come again and bring me a book like my ma’d said she would. She never came."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steven DeNero

    I moved to "The West" a few years ago, and have started looking for works in the western canon recently. I can't emphasize enough how much I loathe reading Jack Kerouac's works. On top of that, I felt some of the stories included did not hold my attention well. So 4 stars. On the other hand, stumbling across Brokeback Mountain was a treat, and William H. Gass's 'The Pedersen Kid' was absolutely brilliant. I had to find help explaining the deeper psychology behind many of these stories, and the P I moved to "The West" a few years ago, and have started looking for works in the western canon recently. I can't emphasize enough how much I loathe reading Jack Kerouac's works. On top of that, I felt some of the stories included did not hold my attention well. So 4 stars. On the other hand, stumbling across Brokeback Mountain was a treat, and William H. Gass's 'The Pedersen Kid' was absolutely brilliant. I had to find help explaining the deeper psychology behind many of these stories, and the Pedersen Kid is a prime example. The complexity is amazing. This review came in really handy, and ended up making me stay awake even later than I wanted https://tedmorrissey.wordpress.com/20... I don't have a lot of experience with short fiction, so maybe this is always the case, but I found the selections Larry McMurtry made for this catalog to be overly woeful. An overarching sense of the West being isolating and cold. Still, I appreciate being introduced to new authors.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Robert Morgan Fisher

    Minus one star for the unfortunate inclusion of William Gass' "The Pedersen Kid" at the end. Don't get me wrong, I love metafiction, but Gass is a gasbag who ran out of ideas long ago (there's even a TUNNEL in this 67-page single spaced metastisized paean to petty bickering. As a 15-page story this would have been perfect, just as The Tunnel would have been perfect at 300. Put I'm probably being petty myself. Were this collection published later and Pedersen Kid replaced by Jesse Ball's "The Ear Minus one star for the unfortunate inclusion of William Gass' "The Pedersen Kid" at the end. Don't get me wrong, I love metafiction, but Gass is a gasbag who ran out of ideas long ago (there's even a TUNNEL in this 67-page single spaced metastisized paean to petty bickering. As a 15-page story this would have been perfect, just as The Tunnel would have been perfect at 300. Put I'm probably being petty myself. Were this collection published later and Pedersen Kid replaced by Jesse Ball's "The Early Deaths of Lubeck, Brennan, Harp, and Carr"? Well, that would be a perfect metafictional cherry on top. Good collection, some good calls by McMurtry and some brilliant ones. This one's a keeper. Enjoy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tito

    Great collection of stories. Well curated. Varied styles and perspectives. No story was bad, and some were excellent. Maybe the highest praise I can give it is that reading it made me want to write again.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Wide ranging fiction collection hits some high points but on average is ok, not great. None of the stories are terrible but some are just mediocre and not on par with Kerouac, Proulx, and some of the other more prominent featured authors.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mika

    3,5 stars.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matt Mesa

    A good collection of stories. All of them—in one way or another—about relationships. The last story for me was the worst. But until then some good stuff in the Western canon.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paul Parsons

    McMurtry didn't write this one, but rather compiled these 20 short stories by various authors that he feels reflect the changing wild west. Some are better than others. One is by Anne Proulx...Brokeback Mountain, which, of course, was made into a movie. Good light reading, as some of them are ten pages long; others 50. McMurtry didn't write this one, but rather compiled these 20 short stories by various authors that he feels reflect the changing wild west. Some are better than others. One is by Anne Proulx...Brokeback Mountain, which, of course, was made into a movie. Good light reading, as some of them are ten pages long; others 50.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Don

    Like any compilation, the quality varies. I appreciate the chance to read some authors I didn't know next to ones I've loved for years. Like any compilation, the quality varies. I appreciate the chance to read some authors I didn't know next to ones I've loved for years.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bill Gordon

    I was kind of disappointed. I didn't realise that this was a collection of short stories. I'm not really a fan of short stories. I was kind of disappointed. I didn't realise that this was a collection of short stories. I'm not really a fan of short stories.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    It was just what I needed at the time, cozy, light, fun read. I've read other series I enjoyed more and am not sure I will read anymore from this series. I loved KO Kao-Kung, the cat. It was just what I needed at the time, cozy, light, fun read. I've read other series I enjoyed more and am not sure I will read anymore from this series. I loved KO Kao-Kung, the cat.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    Good stories by Annie Proulx, Diana Ossana, Robert Boswell, Richard Ford and especially Mark Jude Poirier (who is this guy?). Less good by bigger names Ray Carver, Jack Kerouac, William Gass.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Terry

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chrissy

  20. 5 out of 5

    FRANK L MUNDY

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Quinn

  22. 4 out of 5

    jastanley

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

  24. 5 out of 5

    lydia juhli n

  25. 4 out of 5

    Donald

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Mckinney

  27. 5 out of 5

    James T. Ayers, Jr.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Greg

  29. 4 out of 5

    Wende Watkins

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jason Robinson

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