Friday, January 4, 2008

Why I love her: E. Annie Proulx

Since my New Year's Resolution is to blog more often, since the book I'm reading now will take some time to get through, and since I feel like blogging RIGHT NOW, I'm doing another one of these. The second installment in my series (as you may have guessed) is about E. Annie Proulx.

Most people know her from one of two of her works: the short story "Brokeback Mountain" or the novel The Shipping News. I actually didn't like the second much: I couldn't keep track of all the characters and their backstories, although I suspect that maybe it was me, since I can see how it's a good book. The first I loved so much that I refuse to see the movie. Not because I think they wrecked the story, but because I think society wrecked the humanity of it by making jokes about Brokeback this and Brokeback that. The story made me cry, and still does when I think about it. I mean, read it and imagine yourself as one of the main characters and see how much you feel like laughing then.

"Brokeback Mountain" was the story that got me interested in her. Since then, I've read both of her short story collections (I believe there's only two) and her newest novel, That Old Ace in the Hole, as well as The Shipping News. Ace in the Hole was pretty good, but I prefer her short story collections in general. She's a writer of the West the way someone like Willie Morris or Harper Lee was a writer of the South. When you read her short stories, you feel like you're there. You understand the place, and the people, and their relationship. But like them, she doesn't glamorize. A short story like "What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick?", about a beleaguered rancher, will have you suffering sympathetic symptoms of stress. You just want to reach into the story and hand that guy some money to help him fix the impossible situation that he's in: he can't sell his ranch, but he can't keep it running either, he's too old and broken-down to start over and none of his family understands any of this. Even stories that are less about the land still have a lot of the West in them.

Annie Proulx's fiction offers to me exactly what many readers seek: a chance to step outside myself and my own environment in a way that even taking a vacation wouldn't allow me. Reading these stories shows me a different way of life through the eyes of one who's living it and that's "why I love her".

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