After reading The Paris Review‘s disappointing Winter 2010 issue, I must say “Gold Mine” by Claire Vaye Watkins was its sole saving grace.
It’s a gripping story with multiple facets that really brings the reader in hard and fast. It tells the story of three characters: Darla, a popular prostitute at the Cherry Patch Ranch, Manny, the manager of said ranch, and Michele, a foreign visitor who mistakenly visits the ranch. All three characters are multi-faceted and bulk at the stereotypes characters such as these would typically be written as. Darla isn’t necessarily the prostitute with a heart of gold, though neither is she so hardened as to have no heart at all. Manny isn’t brutal and cruel with his girls, and Michele, while innocent, has his own drama going on.
The story takes place in Nevada, where only such a story could take place, just outside of Las Vegas. Watkins really paints the landscape well and portrays the whore house as a business, not a hell hole. I found it an interesting book end (as it is the last story in the review, followed only by a short poem) to Alexandra Kleeman’s “Fairy Tale” (read my review of that story here). Both stories were written by relatively unknown young female writers, but it was Kleeman’s (inferior) story that got so much attention.
The Nevada Review did an interview with Watkins which discusses her background as a Nevadan and her experience at Ohio State University’s MFA program. I for one am very excited about her upcoming collection of stories. She’s definitely an author to keep an eye on.