Sunday, September 28, 2008


Sunday, 28 September

For the first time in about a year, I suddenly discovered myself with time to read a book, so I bought Annie Proulx's latest collection of Wyoming Stories, this one titled Fine Just the Way It Is. As one review quoted on the back cover notes, "Proulx has found a tone and style of delivery that allow her to be humorous and existentially black at the same time." My father quit reading her work because it's too "gloomy" (he prefers biographies of dead presidents, which are neither light nor cheery). She can poke subtle tongue-in-cheek fun at the most dire human condition or circumstance, and her writing is sometimes oddly hysterical.

What's this got to do with bikes or hats, you ask? Well, the second story in the collection is titled "I've Always Loved This Place" and it's about the Devil trying to plan a make-over of Hell. "Nothing has been done to this damn place for aeons." (See the connection yet?) So the Devil and his assistant set out on a golf cart to "tour the property and see where we can make improvements." They devise plans for a new entrance gate (keeping "Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here"). "Double our fly-gnat-mosquito-chigger package order."

The Devil's attention keeps returning to a city high on the top of a mountain. Here's where my brain started taking in familiar words out of context, just like when you unexpectedly encounter a cyclist you know in a work setting. "It's the ideal end point for the Tour de France. Pro cyclists have earned a place in Hell. It is twice the size of any Alp." But just a long, steep climb isn't torture enough. "Let's get some coarse and broken cobbles on the steepest stretches here. I want those guardrails removed from the abyss....Varied weather will help; sleet storms, parching heat, black ice on the cobbles, hurricane force crosswinds [sounds just like racing here on earth, eh?]....Every rider will be on drugs and some will go down frothing at the lips like Simpson on Mount Ventoux in nineteen sixty-whatever. And let's have screaming crowds who throw packets of filth and fine dust, handfuls of carpet tacks, who squirt olive oil and then piss on the riders. Water bottles filled with kerosene and alkali water....More dogs on the course. And rattlesnakes. Let's see--how about an obligatory enema in the starting gate and EPO breaks every thirty minutes. As for the UCI--" The Devil whispers into the assistant's ear and then they move on from cycling Hell to talk of castrating and branding cowboys in an afterlife reversal of fortunes.

Maybe the moral here is that I need to be nicer so I don't end up on this slippery slope for eternity? :)

1 comment:

Nicole said...

It's funny that you should post about this book just after I'd listened to a podcast about it. Perhaps you already listen to Bookworm on NPR, but if you don't, it's a 30 minute show where the hosts talks to different authors each week. Two weeks ago was Annie Proulx, but I only got around to listening last night. If you don't know it and are curious, here's the link: