Before I can review Mark Spragg’s new novel, The Fruit of Stone, I need to perform an exorcism — of a New York Times book review by a guy named Jonathan Miles, whose credentials include Books Columnist for Men’s Journal (one of those magazines that show men how to spend an hour in a fitness club doing what real cowboys do 12 hours a day). Here’s a taste of Miles’ sarcasm: "The light must really be something in Mark Spragg’s Wyoming. Whether tinting ‘the air an apple green,’ seeming to ‘grind against the shadows’ or falling ‘bronzed and buttery on the endless sweep of grazeland,’ or whether coming as ‘feathers,’ a ‘slap’ or a ‘soft throw,’ it exerts a mighty influence on the people it illuminates." Get your head out of your palm pilot, Miles, and stick it out the window. There’s a lot of light west of Yonkers — and few know it better than Mark Spragg.

He is a master of writing about light. And emotions. And hard friendships. And harder love. He should be. Spragg is a man (not a guy) who grew up working 12 hours a day at ranching, real ranching.

Their story runs like a hard back road: gorgeous and tricky, held in light that "grinds against the shadows" — the light of the Real West. Spragg continues to honor the gifts he demonstrated in his essay collection, Where Rivers Change Direction. And we are the lucky recipients.

The Fruit of Stone, Mark Spragg, Riverhead Books. 2002. 287 pages. Hardcover: $24.95.