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on 24 March 2006
Previous reviewers here have not always made it clear that it is a collection of eleven stories, of which "Brokeback Mountain", representing just thirty-five pages, is the last. The collection was originally published as "Close Range: Wyoming Stories", and, to tie in with the movie, has been reissued and retitled "Close Range/Brokeback Mountain and other stories", with, of course, cover photographs of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal against a backdrop of scenery from the Ang Lee movie.
The majority of readers will come to this volume, as I did, having already seen the film, and so turn straight to page 283. The story "Brokeback Mountain" is quickly recognizable as the inspiration behind the film, and is as such doubtless the best introduction to Annie Proulx's complex and brilliantly dense prose-style. Some of the dialogue in the film comes directly from that in the story, while other elements feature in the narrative part. For example: "the brilliant charge of their infrequent couplings was darkened by the sense of time flying, never enough time, never enough." [In the film, the words "never enough time, never enough" are spoken by Jack Twist.]
Despite the easily recognisable overall situation, reading the short story is, of course, a significantly different experience from watching the film. The female characters generally speaking feature relatively little in the story, and Jack's first meeting with his wife is absent, for example, as is the Thanksgiving confrontation between Jack and his father-in-law. However, there are also elements in the story which were left out of the movie, a particularly unsettling one being a late revelation about the conflict between Jack and his father, glossed over in the movie when Jack briefly mentions that his father never had any time for him. What is related in the story is considerably more disturbing.
As for the other ten stories, ranging in length from just one page to something over forty, my personal feeling is that the longer ones are the better ones [and that the one-page one hardly qualifies to be included in the first place...] But Proulx writes brilliantly throughout, sometimes with acerbic humour [one female character is "distinguished by a physique approaching the size of a hundred-gallon propane tank"; there are "women with eyebrows like crowbars" and men with "knuckles the size of new potatoes"]. Fans of the movie coming in search of more gay cowboys will, I'm afraid, be disappointed, but there is plenty here dealing with the darker side of human hearts and psyches, and some very dark moments indeed. As one of the character-narrators puts it, human emotions are fuelled by "...the little running grass-fires of the heart, the kind that usually die out on their own but in some people soar into uncontrollable conflagration." Which applies aptly to Ennis and Jack. More generally, though, it is those uncontrollable conflagrations and their devastating consequences which make all these stories what they are. Be warned: they are difficult - but they are unforgettable.
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on 23 December 2005
Before buying this book, after being told about the film, I wasn't aware of how short it was...One thing I regret about this book is it's length. It's such a magical and well told story that I only wish it was much longer, maybe even as long as a normal novel. Annie Proulx tells a wonderful story about forbidden desire and love which is so heart wrenchingly real and genuine that you just wish it went on for longer and that it wasn't just a "short story." I'm now really looking forward to the film adaption which is set to be an instant classic, the cast looks amazing and the acting also. I love this story!
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on 12 January 2006
Brokeback Mountain, having begun its life as a short story written for The New Yorker, is a sparse, desolate and utterly compelling description of loneliness, longing and fate. It is short, but each word can be interpreted as a thousand - telling the story of two sheep herders whose chance meeting and uncovered need mature into a form of love, yet constrained by circumstance and fear. Ultimately sad, there are moments of pure joy and heart wrenching misery.
More than recommended - though a surprising price for something so slim.
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I enjoyed the film so much I decided I would have to read the book, being a huge fan of Annie Proulx. I was also intrigued by the fact that Larry McMurty wrote the screen play to the film as he is famous for writing the cowboy series "Lonesome Dove" which stopped short of his main characters actually confessing their love and attatchment to each other, let alone allowing their emotions to spill over into overt sexual acts.
When I received my book I was amazed to realise it was only a (very) short story, being 35 pages long and the last in a series of 11 short stories. But I was NOT disappointed by the story, though I was glad I had seen the film first in this case. Everything is there, either hinted at, implied or seething below the surface exactly as it does in the film. Even the fate of Jack is left enigmatic. The bewilderment of two inarticulate men who are in a place and time where it is totally unacceptable to openly declare their magnetic attraction to each other is agonising and poignant.
Now to read the other 10 stories!
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on 30 March 2013
The sheer range of characters Proulx conjures through her writing about overlapping times and spaces in the tumbleweed-strewn vastness of the US West is stupendous. Each story has an absolutely distinct tone, but the whole collage amounts to an impressive portrait of a place. Brokeback is only characteristic of the set in that it gets inside the emotions of individuals struggling to come to terms with a world of challenges and contradictions, and readers should expect the other stories to be utterly different in atmosphere, though equally vivid.
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on 11 April 2006
The author manages to weave beauty, pain, and humor into her stories which feature the roughened cowboys and the hard Wyoming landscape. I came to Proulx because of "Brokeback Mountain". The rest of the stories are equally well done. Proulx is an amazing writer, creating unbelievably vivid stories with a sure hand. How she uses the language is truely amazing. No wasted words. I typically don't read cowboy stories, but Proulx has won me over. Her writing is superb and poetic. These are stories about individual people, and though fiction there is truth here, wiht unique perspectives. Now that I have gotten into Cowboy mode I recently read "Lonesome Dove" another must read and "Across the High Lonesome" also not to be missed!
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on 7 January 2006
This is an incredibly subtle, evocative and moving account of two ranch hands in 1960's America who are thrown together in ordinary circumstances and who very quickly discover they share something that runs so deep that it virtually consumes them, a connection and affection that only intensifies through the years. And this story is made all the more powerful by the succinct prose and almost sparse, but vibrant language.
At only 58, small pages and because the two main characters, Jack and Ennis, and their story is so fascinating - this is a book that you’ll very likely finish in one sitting. Everything works here, but most essentially- the two men at the centre of the story who are more different than they are alike, but who compliment each other perfectly- makes for a very undemanding, but intensely involving and ultimately bittersweet story. And most refreshingly, Proulx never patronises her readers- predictable plot twists and tidy, happy endings don't apply here. It's almost as if she isn't aware she's writing for anyone other than herself, she simply lays out a story to be taken or not and I'm very glad I did.
In some ways, this is a story that the reader must add a lot to themselves, because all love is unspoken here, between people not used to expressing themselves or their feelings openly, even those between husband and wife, so some reading between the lines is required. And ultimately, the story was very powerful for me because it highlighted just how few boundaries life imposes on us, but how very many we impose on ourselves.
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on 16 January 2006
After seeing the film, i found that i needed to read the book. I purchased the original paperback copy off of a friend, and immediately started reading. By page 2 i was gripped. It was an amazing story with highly descripted dialogue, It definately is better than the film. although i feel that being such a short story, more depth is in this than any much larger novels i have read. I certianly recommend this book to anyone and feel that it proves that Love can be found in the strangest place. An all- round heart warming story, that grips you from the very beginning to the end. The ending is somewhat vague, and leaves the reader to piece together the events of previous pages to come to his/her own conclusion. Very imaginative and a novel that anyone Gay, Straight, or whatever can relate to.
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on 15 April 2006
I saw a guy on Jerry Springer who married a horse. Who's to say what we will love? The way that we will love (if it's true love) seems straightforward - eternally and unconditionally with a determination that overcomes any obstacle. It needn't be coventional as Jack and Ennis prove. They go long periods without seeing each other. They try to manufacture a life outside of their love. Neither of them would have chosen their path and, for anything else but love would have wished it undone. The real power of the story lies in their enforced separation over a lifetime - the (almost) perfect illustration of the saying 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' Except that fonder is much too weak a word for this relationship - There's no word I can think of to substitute for it - incendiary might come closest but is still some way off. If you want to be envious, horrified, bewitched, enchanted, enriched, beguiled, fascinated, tenderised, engulfed and bereft, read Brokeback Mountain.
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on 9 January 2006
Great story, brilliantly told by one of the best half dozen writers on the North American continent today. And nobody tells stories about the ways of local Wyoming folk, going about their daily business, anywhere near as well as Proulx does.
But my advice is to to fork out the extra pound, or so, and buy 'Close Range', the collection of short stories from which 'Brokeback Mountain' is taken. Non-judgemental to the end, these vignettes dissect the mores and codes of Wyoming life, delivered in a beguiling rhythm that speaks of good ol' country wisdom, at once full of warmth for the place and people, but also harsh, and veined with dark humour.
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