Rated Explicit

Next week’s story is Bloodchild by Octavia Butler.

I want to thank everyone for their kind words and understanding for last weeks late podcast. This week, we read Annie Proulx and while Maya entered the podcast torn about the time shifts, both Anais and Gerald loved the story. This was a deeply dense and nuanced tale that took close reading to fully appreciate the skill and artistry. Maya also recommends listening to the story on Audible. Close Range by Annie Proulx is a collection of stories based in the rural communities in Wyoming. If you don’t have Audible already, click here for a free trial.

Don’t forget, to rate the story! For the history of our goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a Bradberry, we’d love to see it.

Listeners gave last week’s story “Sonny’s Blues” by 5.5 Bradberries.

So tell us, on a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate “The Half-Skinned Steer“? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give the final tally on the next episode.

Next week’s story is Bloodchild by Octavia Butler.

4 comments on The Half-Skinned Steer – E. Annie Proulx – Literary Roadhouse Ep 29

  1. Richard says:

    Forgot to rate the story. Four Bradberries. It has achieved great critical acclaim, and I can see there is a lot going on in the piece. But until I can pull together the threads, it’s like one of the more obscure Bob Dylan songs: lots of great images but what else?

    1. Gerald Hornsby says:

      It was certainly a difficult story. The problem with doing the podcast is that you need to come up with some ideas, conclusions, theories (not necessarily in that order).
      I think we came to the conclusion that he died because his thought processes were failing, the weather was turning bad, he was stuck outside … and the half-skinned steer was some sort of cymbal (lol) for death. I did wonder about his desire to drop everything and drive across country when he hadn’t spoken to the rest of his family for decades. But then, was that the ‘calling’, that he had to go back eventually?
      Lots of unanswered questions with this one.
      Oh, and I dislike Bob Dylan, and would never willingly listen to any of his songs (although my wife loves him).

  2. Richard says:

    I found this story to be distressingly difficult. Even after a second reading, I am finding it difficult to tie together the many symbols (you know, those crashing things from the marching band?) into some coherent idea. The podcast dealt with this in a way that was a bit abstract, talking about harsh nature and revenge and going home, along with the enchanted steer myth. But there is so much finite and tactile reality here. Literally there is blood on the ground. Along with a tongue. And diet gone wrong, from veggies to eggs to bloody steak. And the snow covered trail, where he gets stuck not once but twice (if that was just a plot point to get him out of the car, wouldn’t the first time have been sufficient?). And why is Mero dwelling on Tin Head, when his brother just died. If the death was important enough to make him drive cross country, shouldn’t he have some sibling thoughts?

    Every time I try to connect the dots, I come up with something way too facile, like "you can’t go home again" or "nature will always defeat us," or else hopelessly complex.

    And why does everyone assume he dies at the end? Because he sees a red eye? Tin Head saw two red eyes, and he didn’t die, although he was doomed. But then, aren’t we all?

    1. Aaah, I think the story seemed simpler to me (which doesn’t mean simple), because I didn’t take the Tinhead story to be a literal, real thing that happened. The story is being told by the girlfriend who likes to fib and exaggerate. Tinhead sounds like a local legend, possibly based on a real family, but with the magical realist elements fabricated in the legend for the sake of keeping it interesting.

      With that reading of it, then no, Tinhead didn’t actually see a half-skinned steer. When Mero sees it, it’s an end-of-life hallucination. That’s why I am convinced he dies.

      That and he is a 83 year old man stuck in a blizzard with no shelter. I’m assuming until told otherwise, I suppose.

      I think Mero dwells on the Tinhead story because that moment is the catalyst that sets him running. Possibly a frustration at this stark, harsh life where the only entertainment is sex (with slim pickings) and a made-up story about a crazy farmer with a weird farm. I think he had a "There has got to be more to life than this BS," moment, and ran.

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