Today and yesterday, I read Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2, by Annie Proulx. (A better verb than "read" might be "drank in" or "devoured".) What an amazing book -- Flannery O'Connor has some serious competition for my favorite author of short stories.
I got interested in reading Proulx from the story Brokeback Mountain, which I read last week prior to seeing the movie -- what struck me about that story was the fullness of characterization, and the palpable sense of time passing; I loved it and wanted to read more. So on my way to the movie theater I stopped at Montclair Book Center where I picked up Bad Dirt and Shipping News.
Bad Dirt mixes gravity and whimsy deftly, I particularly loved how The Wamsutter Wolf -- maybe the most moving story in the book -- is sandwiched in between The Contest and Summer of the Hot Tubs, both lighthearted, almost superficial stories. The characters are great -- the two I identified most closely with were probably Creel Zmundzinski (who opens and closes the book) and Buddy Millar (who is only in one story, The Wamsutter Wolf). But I got to know every character well and to feel for them.