Not being aware of the contents of the Annie Proulx stories I’ve read this week, I’ve been surprised that it wasn’t until this last story, “A Lonely Coast”, that female characters took a more prominent role. Not surprising is the small-town Wyoming setting and Proulx perfectly captures the small-town Western bar scene (in this story it’s called “The Golden Buckle”).
The unnamed female narrator (at least I think she is unnamed, I went back several times to try to see if Proulx ever gave her a name, if she did and I just forgot, feel free to let me know!) tells the story of her friend Josanna Skiles. No major plot line exists. Small episodes serve as examples of the miserable life that Josanna and the rest of the women in town seem to lead. None of the men in this story treat women with any respect and they all, men and women, lead a hopeless life.
The title comes from a seemingly minor detail about the only vacation that the narrator and her boyfriend, Riley, took to the Oregon coast. This coast was as lonely as Wyoming except for one thing:
Up the lonely coast a stuttering blink warned ships away. I said to Riley that was what we needed in Wyoming – lighthouses. He said no, what we needed was a wall around the state and turrets with machine guns in them.
At least from this story, I think Wyoming could use lighthouses, also. And something about which to be hopeful.