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That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx *** (of 4)

That Old Ace in the HoleProulx spins a tall Texas tale about a loner named Bob Dollar sent to the mythical panhandle town of Wooly Bucket.  His objective is to scout sites for an environmentally devastating pig farm for an international conglomerate called Global Pork Rind.  Proulx has done her research leading readers rather forcefully to despise corporate agriculture and lament the loss of the good old days.  She is at her best when she is pushing her farce as far as it will stretch, loosening up enough to become laugh aloud funny by the book’s end.  Her descriptions of land, history, people of the earth, climate, even the buzz of insects before a thunderstorm are spot on and make the book worth reading.  A few of her polemics drag.  She lets oil drillers and the farmers who ran the regional aquifer get off the hook, too, in her single minded focus to give hell to businesses that raise pork units in deadly tight quarters.  Read Proulx for her sense of place and character rather than for politics and plot.