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4 8 6 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n l it e r a t u r e W in t e r 2 0 0 6 some magic goblet brimming with the elixir of ownership” (72). This same sentiment of possession and rights carries over to the Native American father/ daughter twosome in “The Indian Wars Refought” and again in the final story, “Florida Rental,” in which Amanda Gribb, the town’s beloved bartender, goes to ridiculous lengths to keep “devil cows” out of her garden. A seemingly small detail causes many of the stories in Bad Dirt to fall short as Proulx’s character names are becoming more annoying, intolerable, and altogether fake: Orion Homcrackle, Fiesta Punch, Honor Fair, Hard Winter Ulph, and Apollo Wham. Some critics assert that her outlandish method of nomenclature caricatures rural people who, through Proulx’s depiction, live contrived and exaggerated lives that teeter between the realistic and the fantastic, the macabre and the rural noir. The quirky and overfictionalized existence of Proulx’s Wyoming residents crystallizes in a credo muttered by Rancher Croom in the earlier Close Range: “When you live a long way out you make your own fun” (252). Nonetheless, Bad Dirt showcases Proulx’s tight narrative, sharp dialogue, and luscious descriptions—for these reasons the collection is worth the literary voyage to Wyoming. In the Shadow of the Strip: Las Vegas Stories. Edited by Richard Logsdon, Todd Scott Moffett, and Tina D. Eliopulos. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2003. 145 pages, $16.00. Reviewed by Heather Robison Utah State University, Logan A s a student of literature and someone who thinks of Las Vegas as home, I am surprised by the lack of literary attention given to the city. While researching western American scholarship, from studies of tourism to literary exploration, I can find many possible connections between Las Vegas and western themes and issues as well as a deliciously complicated labyrinth of attitudes and theoretical questions waiting to be explored. In the Shadow of the Strip: Las Vegas Stories, an eclectic collection of short stories connected by geography, begins the work of building a body of literature utilizing the unique opportunity Vegas affords. From its earliest roots, western literature has been about storytelling, and Vegas provides an excellent backdrop for a good story. But despite its frequent use in film, few literary treatments have been able to break through the mir­ rored veneer and create a realistic work of quality fiction. The editors of In the Shadow of the Strip compile a collection that works to build upon the western storytelling tradition and to penetrate the eye-bending shimmer of the city that houses the world’s largest rhinestone. The collection opens with “The Run,” a story you would expect to find in a book about Vegas. Acclaimed author of the novel The Lucky (2003), H. Lee Barnes presents a snapshot of a gambler. While stories about compul­ sive gamblers stuck in Las Vegas can easily flop, Barnes’s careful use of detail B o o k R e v ie w s 4 8 7 cuts through the average tale of greed to expose a motivation that is barely about money. All the stories play with stereotypes and expectations, from exploring the cost of treating Vegas as a new brand of western cure to images of the Christ child turning regular Coke into diet at a local bowling alley. In “The Fish Magician,” author David Kranes pulls the reader into the world of master magician and Vegas staple Lance Burton. Playfully suggestive, this story explores the tragic consequences of the onset of Alzheimer’s—various magic props, half a magician’s assistant, and now a tourist’s husband are all missing. While many of the stories deal with tourist experience, José Skinner’s “Naked City” delivers a realistic portrayal ofsuburban life (sans casinos) that feels more like my hometown than many of the other stories, and Andrew Kiraly’s “The Funniest Thing You Said All Night” depicts a different kind of Las Vegas loser who is often overlooked, suggesting that you can lose a lot more than money in...


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pp. 486-487
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