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Bird Cloud: A Memoir of Place [Paperback]

Annie Proulx
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2012

Annie Proulx, one of America's finest writers, invites us to share her experience in the building of her new home on a rich plot of untouched, unspoilt prairie and her pleasure in uncovering of the layers of American history locked beneath the topsoil.

‘Bird Cloud’ is the name Annie Proulx gave to 640 acres of Wyoming wetlands and prairie and 400 foot cliffs plunging down to the North Platte River. On the day she first visited, a cloud in the shape of a bird hung in the evening sky. Proulx also saw pelicans, bald eagles, golden eagles, great blue herons, ravens, scores of bluebirds, harriers, kestrels, elk, deer and a dozen antelope. She knew she had to purchase the land, then owned by the Nature Conservancy, and she knew what she would build on it – a house in harmony with her work, her appetites and her character – a library surrounded by bedrooms and a kitchen.

Proulx's first non-fiction in more than twenty years, Bird Cloud is the story of building that house – solar panels, a Japanese soak tub, a concrete floor, elk horn handles on kitchen cabinets – and an enthralling natural history and archeology of the region, inhabited for millennia by Ute, Arapaho and Shoshone Indians. It is also a family history, going back to nineteenth century Mississippi river boat captains and Canadian settlers, and an illuminating autobiography. Proulx, a writer with extraordinary powers of observation and compassion, turns her lens on herself. We understand how she came to be living in a house surrounded by wilderness, with shelves for thousands of books and long worktables on which to heap manuscripts, research materials and maps, and how she came to be one of the great American writers of her time.

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Bird Cloud: A Memoir of Place + Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 + Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2: v. 2
Price For All Three: 18.52

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007231997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007231997
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 87,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Annie Proulx's The Shipping News won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the National Book Award for Fiction, and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. She is the author of two other novels: Postcards, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, and Accordion Crimes. She has also written two collections of short stories, Heart Songs and Other Stories and Close Range. In 2001, The Shipping News was made into a major motion picture. Annie Proulx lives in Wyoming and Newfoundland.

Product Description


‘Proulx’s prose is monumental’ Observer

'Magic … Books are like homes and within 10 pages of crossing the threshold of this one readers will put up their feet, secure in the knowledge that they won’t be moving on to another any time soon ' Geoff Dyer, Observer

‘A love letter to place…which interweaves details of the land’s daily upkeep with her own equally evocative history’ Vogue

A masterpiece’ A. N. Wilson

About the Author

Annie Proulx's books include the novel ‘The Shipping News’ and the story collection ‘Fine Just the Way It Is’. Her many honors include a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize and a PEN/Faulkner award. Her story ‘Brokeback Mountain’, which originally appeared in The New Yorker, was made into an Academy Award-winning film. She lives in Wyoming.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fragmented 2 Oct 2011
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I love Proulx's writing. Her sparse sentences are beautifully constructed, almost poetic, and she has such an affinity with the land she writes about you really feel at times as if you are there with her. This book is rather different from her novels and short stories however. It is a kind of memoir in which she talks about and tries to examine why a sense of place is so important to her. The book is split into three roughly equal sections. In the first she talks about her family tree and about searching for the part of herself that both longs for the perfect home and yet is still driven to wander. In the second section she talks about her attempts to build what she thought would be her perfect home in over six hundred acres of Wyoming landscape that she bought. This house is called Bird Cloud, hence the title of the book. The third section deals with her life at Bird Cloud and the life and history of the land that it is on.

All three sections are connected, but only loosely, and this really gives the book a sense of fragmentation that for me did not make it an easy read. It seems unfinished and rather fragmentary and also, at times, as if she herself is just not satisfied with what she is writing. The phrase that sums it up best for me is cobbled together.

The section on Bird Cloud itself was the most interesting. Proulx had endless difficulties with the house and it is compelling reading, but Bird Cloud is such an unusual house I really felt that at least one photograph or drawing of the house would not have gone amiss here. I really struggled to picture the house in my mind's eye and I got so attached to the outcome as I read that I felt somehow cheated that I didn't get to see the finished structure.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars IT PAINS ME 21 April 2012
By Alexander Bryce TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am a big fan of Annie Proulx. It therefor pains me to give less than five stars to anything by her. Her works of fiction are beyond reproach, but this, the nearest yet to an autobiography, I found to be rather dull and, I can't believe I am saying this about any Annie Proulx book, boring. Sure it tells us much about life in nineteenth century USA and Canada, about Annie Proulx's life now and in her early years, about why she chose to build her home under that bird shaped cloud in her beloved Wyoming and why she left this special place. All this should have made for an interesting read , but for me it was too pedestrian with rather a lot of unnecessary detail about the construction, fitting and decor.
I think I would have put it down before the end were it not for my great, genuine admiration of Annie Proulx.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
...the last page. Miss Proulx's descriptions of buying in a barely hospitable area are in turn funny and ripe with her frustration. Owing to the richness of her writing you feel her pain and you giggle along with the ineptitude of those she hires. But then she herself freely admits she was mad to buy in this isolated, harsh spot. It's a majestic environment though - one which Miss Proulx does justice in her beautiful observations of the wildlife around her. I learnt so so much about American history, 'land grabbing' and how a 'real' writer likes to work (and sets up her home accordingly). It's beautiful and wonderful - a real joy to read.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 20 April 2011
By lodgie
Although Annie writes beautiful descriptions of wildlife, the country and the housebuilding progress it lacks structure hopping from one train of thought to another and has so much jargon in there it becomes diffcult to read. You long for photos or illustrations e.g. of the James Gang and the house and ranch because you just dont get the connection from her prose or the occasional line drawings. Irritating also that she complains about the costs but never tells you what it is or other details. Its as though she's trying to keep you at a distance. Perhaps she wrote the book reluctantly to pay for it all.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Just Don't 16 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Please don't buy this if you are an Annie Proulx fan (as I am) you will be very disappointed. It smacks of contractual obligation writing and has regrettably ended in the recycling bin. (I wouldn't want to spoil any newcomer's first experience of Proulx with this effort so no charity shop).
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living in the Wild Country 13 Mar 2011
By D. J.
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Another great book from Annie Proulx, not a book of fiction this time but a memoir dedicated to a wild area of Wyoming by the North Platte River and her decision to build a house and live there. Annie was looking for a "place" to settle down and live out the rest of her life, unfortunatley this was not to be, the area proved to be to wild and inaccesable during the Winter months. Annie explains how she came across this particular spot "Bird Cloud" and how she wanted her house built and to become more at one with her wild surroundings.
Annie explains the history of the area, the Native Americans who used to live there, the abundant wildlife, the people she enlisted to help build her dream home and the never ending pitfalls that acompany such a project.
Annie Proulx like great writers have, draws you into the essence of her writing with her honesty,
compassion, detail and energy that has made her one of the best writers of Modern American Literature.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Visit
As on a visit!
Published 9 hours ago by jan van der heide
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read for lovers of memoir
A great read for lovers of memoir. An excellent book to pursue leads on Old Wyoming ranch life and modern house construction. Read more
Published 4 months ago by JPSreviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
wide-ranging, meditative, informative, evocative and beautifully written.
Amazon requires '13 more words' which is the reason why I rarely complete these feedback requests.
Published 10 months ago by Dr J B Thumim
1.0 out of 5 stars A strange book ...............
I have many books that I return to and re-read at intervals, but I shall never read Bird Cloud again. In fact I had to force myself to finish it. Read more
Published on 5 Jun 2012 by Steve Ellis
1.0 out of 5 stars Not read it yet
nothing one can say about e-book downloads. it either happens or it doesn't. It did
and I'm happy. Can't comment on the book, saving it for holiday flights. Read more
Published on 22 April 2012 by Elwynp
2.0 out of 5 stars Yes indeed, boring bother with builders
Very disappointed with this book. Next to listening to other peoples' dreams I should think hearing about other people's bother with builders is the most tedious thing in the... Read more
Published on 16 Mar 2012 by S. L. Cooke
2.0 out of 5 stars Banal
A boring and banal tale of one ladies chioce of kitchen tiles etc. No insights into the writers mind, no inspiration taken from the surroundings. Read more
Published on 29 Feb 2012 by Treegirlmegirl
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wild West
Heard this book in precis form on Radio 4, bought it from Amazon and read it with pleasure, a lovely book that educates one about the USA and Canada in the early days, also how... Read more
Published on 27 April 2011 by Richard Pelling
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