Skin of the Earth: Stories from Nevada's Back Country

Paperback
Nevada's back country is a region of vast spaces, drought-parched sagebrush and snow-clogged winters where rugged ranchers and fiercely independent loners seek solitude in remote canyons. But the Nevada of Art Gibney's superb new story collection is part of the modern West, where traditional ways collide uneasily with apocalyptic technologies, ranchers contend with BLM bureaucrats about the use of the land, downwinders die of horrible malignancies, and no canyon is inviolate to the ubiquitous military presence. Gibney vividly captures the tensions of the contemporary rural West - ranchers struggling to preserve a valued way of life and sons yearning to escape to easier livelihoods, dreamers trying to flee the modern world only to find themselves entangled in its complications, an achingly beautiful landscape full of invisible and deadly poisons. Few stories of the West depict the primal herder's life as vividly as The Wild Cow, and the heartbreaking dignity of the dying rancher in The Manure Spreader will linger long in the reader's mind. The characters in A Hard Way to Make a Hundred Bucks explore the mystery of a secret Department of Defense installation while reflecting on the larger mystery of an impending birth, and a drought in Cloudshine launches a series of events that threaten a peaceful Mormon community. Gibney knows his characters well, their strengths and their foibles, and he knows the land they live on. He writes with sympathy, humor, a keen sense of irony, and a sharp ear for dialogue. These are memorable stories of a West that is both remote from and thoroughly enmeshed in the modern world, a rural place where cattle and rabbitbrush live side by side with atomic fallout, where open spaces conceal the deepest secrets of the human heart.