Short Story #11. The Half-Skinned Steer (E. Annie Proulx)

Deal Me In Reading Challenge: I drew the seven of spades.

Story: The Half-Skinned Steer, by E. Annie Proulx (I read it here).

Comments: According to online sources this story was originally written at the invitation of the Nature Conservancy, which asked Proulx to visit one of its preserves and then contribute a story, inspired by her visit, to Off the Beaten Path (1998), an anthology of short fiction.  The Half-Skinned Steer deals with themes of death, family, and memory.  And old man learns of his brother’s death, and sets out to drive to the funeral at the family home that he walked away from many years earlier.  The half-skinned steer of the title is a symbol of bad fortune and ultimately of death.  The general tone of the story is pessimistic: life is harsh, and there’s not much possibility of getting away from whatever situation we were born into.  Good notes can be found here.

I found it hard to warm to the story, or to any of the characters in it.  It’s quite a different kettle of fish than Brokeback Mountain or The Shipping News.

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