Worthwhile Westerns At Close Range: Wyoming Stories (6 hours), Annie Proulx's latest collection of short stories (the eight included are unabridged) is an out-and-out stunner. Proulx, as at home in the harsh Wyoming landscape as she was in the rugged Northeast, has gotten into the gritty souls of her rough characters who live raw lives shadowed with expectations of disaster. The women are as hard as the men and often just as foul-mouthed. Love and compassion seem in short supply, and the operating philosophy is variations on if you can't fix it, you've got to stand it. Wind, mountains, bleached sky, horses, cattle, and sheep define this world of troubles for most of these troubled people. Some swap whopping lies to ease the rigor and bleakness; others drink, ride bulls, or do something more detrimental to their health. Yet, all are memorable, rendered sharply in Proulx's intense, extraordinary prose, the kind of language that sounds even better when read aloud. After six hours, I only wanted to hear more from Annie Proulx and from the three excellent actors who read her words.

Sukey Howard reports on spoken word audio each month.

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