'Bad Dirt' is filled with the vivid and wilful characters for which Proulx has become known. Each occupies a community or landscape described in rich and robust language, with an eye for detail unparalleled in American fiction.
In 'The Contest', the men of Elk Tooth, Wyoming, vow to put aside their razors for two seasons and wait to see who has the longest beard come the 4th of July. Deb Sipple, the moving protagonist of 'That Trickle Down Effect', finds that his opportunism – and his smoking habit – lead to a massive destruction. And 'What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick?' is the story of Gilbert Wolfscale, whose rabid devotion to his ranch drives off his wife and sons.
Proulx displays her wit in every story of this stunning collection, as well as her knowledge of the West, of history, of ranching and farming. Her profound sympathy for characters who must use sheer will and courage to make it in tough territory makes this collection extraordinarily compelling.