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Customer Review

on 17 February 2006
I recall a short story version of Brokeback Mountain many years ago in a major periodical (alas, I can't recall the periodical). I had an idea that it would, in the fullness of time, become a major motion picture, and that it has. It is an award-winning film already, and looks set for some sort of Oscar recognition.
However, in the hype surrounding the film, those interested would be wise to look at the book. There is much more depth here than in the film, much more about the interior workings of the main characters and what they must endure. This is ultimately not a love story, as the marketing has been spinning the film, but rather an expose on the dangers and drawbacks of living in the closet. For the purposes of this story, Annie Proulx has juxtaposed two diametrically opposite cultures in the American psyche - the gay culture and the cowboy culture (although history is, as it often is, in fact rather different from what the Hollywood-created current remembrance of it is). One comes to wonder at the resistance that all characters seem to have for breaking free of their bonds; ultimately, none of the relationships are satisfying, and there is an emotional desolation as wide and spare as brush land and prairies of the American West.
The lead characters meet while working for the summer as wranglers and watchers over herds. They form a bond that renews at regular intervals during their lives, lives that go on to other, more traditional and socially acceptable settings. Each gets married, each has children, each embarks (in one way or another) in a working life that would seem to preclude the other, but yet the tie that binds them draws them together again on a regular basis.
The closet theme is heightened in the lead characters, but in fact serves as a metaphor for readers who might not fit in that particular closet - we all have skeletons in our closets, it seems, and in fact, we all have our own closets in which we hide and live out part of our lives.
Annie Proulx is an excellent writer, and even though I find it occasionally difficult to relate to her main characters (being involved in worlds several removes away from mine), I can still understand the themes of longing, despair, disappointment, and yes, love, too.
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4.5 out of 5 stars