A New York Times Notable Book
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Shipping News and “Brokeback Mountain,” comes the New York Times bestselling epic about the demise of the world’s forests: “Barkskins is grand entertainment in the tradition of Dickens and Tolstoy…the crowning achievement of Annie Proulx’s distinguished career, but also perhaps the greatest environmental novel ever written” (San Francisco Chronicle).
In the late seventeenth century two young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. René suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a native woman and their descendants live trapped between two cultures. But Duquet runs away, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Annie Proulx tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years—their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand—the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation. Over and over, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.
“A stunning, bracing, full-tilt ride through three hundred years of US and Canadian history…with the type of full-immersion plot that keeps you curled in your chair, reluctant to stop reading” (Elle), Barkskins showcases Proulx’s inimitable genius of creating characters who are so vivid that we follow them with fierce attention. “This is Proulx at the height of her powers as an irreplaceable American voice” (Entertainment Weekly, Grade A), and Barkskins “is an awesome monument of a book” (The Washington Post)—“the masterpiece she was meant to write” (The Boston Globe). As Anthony Doerr says, “This magnificent novel possesses the dark humor of The Shipping News and the social awareness of ‘Brokeback Mountain.’”
Annie Proulx has written some of the most original and brilliant short stories in contemporary literature, and for many readers and reviewers, “Brokeback Mountain” is her masterpiece.
Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, two ranch hands, come together when they’re working as sheepherder and camp tender one summer on a range above the tree line. At first, sharing an isolated tent, the attraction is casual, inevitable, but something deeper catches them that summer.
Both men work hard, marry, and have kids because that’s what cowboys do. But over the course of many years and frequent separations this relationship becomes the most important thing in their lives, and they do anything they can to preserve it.
The New Yorker won the National Magazine Award for Fiction for its publication of “Brokeback Mountain,” and the story was included in Prize Stories 1998: The O. Henry Awards. In gorgeous and haunting prose, Proulx limns the difficult, dangerous affair between two cowboys that survives everything but the world’s violent intolerance.
Quoyle, a third-rate newspaper hack, with a “head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair...features as bunched as kissed fingertips,” is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just desserts. An aunt convinces Quoyle and his two emotionally disturbed daughters to return with her to the starkly beautiful coastal landscape of their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Here, on desolate Quoyle’s Point, in a house empty except for a few mementos of the family’s unsavory past, the battered members of three generations try to cobble up new lives.
Newfoundland is a country of coast and cove where the mercury rarely rises above seventy degrees, the local culinary delicacy is cod cheeks, and it’s easier to travel by boat and snowmobile than on anything with wheels. In this harsh place of cruel storms, a collapsing fishery, and chronic unemployment, the aunt sets up as a yacht upholsterer in nearby Killick-Claw, and Quoyle finds a job reporting the shipping news for the local weekly, the Gammy Bird (a paper that specializes in sexual-abuse stories and grisly photos of car accidents).
As the long winter closes its jaws of ice, each of the Quoyles confronts private demons, reels from catastrophe to minor triumph—in the company of the obsequious Mavis Bangs; Diddy Shovel the strongman; drowned Herald Prowse; cane-twirling Beety; Nutbeem, who steals foreign news from the radio; a demented cousin the aunt refuses to recognize; the much-zippered Alvin Yark; silent Wavey; and old Billy Pretty, with his bag of secrets. By the time of the spring storms Quoyle has learned how to gut cod, to escape from a pickle jar, and to tie a true lover’s knot.
Annie Proulx's masterful language and fierce love of Wyoming are evident in these breathtaking tales of loneliness, quick violence, and the wrong kinds of love. Each of the stunning portraits in Close Range reveals characters fiercely wrought with precision and grace.
These are stories of desperation and unlikely elation, set in a landscape both stark and magnificent -- by an author writing at the peak of her craft.
Dollar finds himself in a Texas town called Woolybucket, whose idiosyncratic inhabitants have ridden out all manner of seismic shifts in panhandle country. These are tough men and women who witnessed first hand tornadoes, dust storms, and the demise of the great cattle ranches. Now it's feed lots, hog farms, and ever-expanding drylands.
Dollar settles into LaVon Fronk's old bunkhouse for fifty dollars a month, helps out at Cy Frease's Old Dog Café, targets Ace and Tater Crouch's ranch for Global Pork, and learns the hard way how vigorously the old owners will hold on to their land, even though their children want no part of it.
Robust, often bawdy, strikingly original and intimate, The Old Ace in the Hole tracks the vast waves of change that have shaped the American landscape and the character over the past century. In Bob Dollar, Proulx has created one of the most irresistible characters in contemporary fiction.
Annie Proulx’s new collection is peopled by characters who struggle with circumstances beyond their control. Born to ranching, drawn to it, or desperate to get out, they inhabit worlds that are isolated and often dangerous. Trouble comes at them from unexpected angles, and they drive themselves through it, hardheaded and resourceful. No one writes better than Proulx about the American west and about lives that may no longer be viable. This is a stunning collection by one of the most vivid and exhilarating writers of our time.
Brokeback Mountain was originally published in The New Yorker. It won the National Magazine Award. It also won an O. Henry Prize. Included in this volume is Annie Proulx's haunting story about the difficult, dangerous love affair between a ranch hand and a rodeo cowboy. Also included is the celebrated screenplay for the major motion picture "Brokeback Mountain," written by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. All three writers have contributed essays on the process of adapting this critically acclaimed story for film.
"Every ranch...had lost a boy," thinks Dakotah Hicks as she drives through "the hammered red landscape" of Wyoming, "boys smiling, sure in their risks, healthy, tipped out of the current of life by liquor and acceleration, rodeo smashups, bad horses, deep irrigation ditches, high trestles, tractor rollovers and 'unloaded' guns. Her boy, too...The trip along this road was a roll call of grief."
Proulx's characters try to climb out of poverty and desperation but get cut down as if the land itself wanted their blood. Deeply sympathetic to the men and women fighting to survive in this harsh place, Proulx turns their lives into fiction with the power of myth -- and leaves the reader in awe.
The winner of two O. Henry Prizes, Annie Proulx has been anthologized in nearly every major collection of great American stories. Her bold, inimitable language, her exhilarating eye for detail and her dark sense of humor make this a profoundly compelling collection.
“Bird Cloud” is the name Annie Proulx gave to 640 acres of Wyoming wetlands and prairie and four-hundred-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 fell in love with the land, then owned by the Nature Conservancy, and she knew what she wanted to build on it—a house in harmony with her work, her appetites and her character, a library surrounded by bedrooms and a kitchen.
Bird Cloud is the story of designing and constructing that house—with its solar panels, Japanese soak tub, concrete floor, and elk horn handles on kitchen cabinets. It is also an enthralling natural history and archaeology of the region—inhabited for millennia by Ute, Arapaho, and Shoshone Indians—and a family history, going back to nineteenth-century Mississippi riverboat captains and Canadian settlers.
Proulx, a writer with extraordinary powers of observation and compassion, here 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.
These stories reverberate with rural tradition, the rites of nature, and the rituals of small-town life. The country is blue-collar New England; the characters are native families and the dispossessed working class, whose heritage is challenged by the neorural bourgeoisie from the city; and the themes are as elemental as the landscape: revenge, malice, greed, passion. Told with skill and profundity and crafted by a master storyteller, these are lean, tough tales of an extraordinary place and its people.