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Close up on Pam Houston

Close up on Pam Houston — EW talks with the writer of ”Cowboys Are My Weakness”

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When writer Pam Houston graduated from Ohio’s Denison University in 1983, she headed out West, where she met an ”archaic form of masculinity” — cowboys — and trailed them through the wilderness. For her trouble, she got the harrowing details that invigorate her rousing first book of short stories, Cowboys Are My Weakness, which itself has ridden several best-seller lists, unusual for a story collection.

If Houston, 30, never stood by her cowboys (who got lily-livered if the L-word was mentioned), she did take to the outdoors. Last year, the Bethlehem, Pa., native slept 89 nights under the stars, and she’s partly financing a Ph.D. in English at the University of Utah by working as a river guide. ”I love getting where I’m going on my own power,” she says.

Houston’s new traveling partner, Michael Elkington, 33, a South African studying to be a helicopter pilot whom she married last April, says he’ll take her to the continent where 50 kinds of animals gather at one watering hole. Sounds like fodder for her next book: a novel featuring a zookeeper.