Friday, May 3, 2013

Review: Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

Title: Brokeback Mountain
Author: Annie Proulx
Genre: Literary
Publisher: Scribner
Published: 2005
Pages: 64

Rating - 7 out of 10

I have wanted to see the movie fashioned after this book for awhile, but put it off until I read the book.
Now, years later, I came across this slim little volume while browsing the shelves of a used bookstore.
I read it in about half an hour, but was surprised that such a little amount of time had gone by.
At a mere 64 pages, "Brokeback Mountain," which is actually a short story, doesn't look like a laborious read. I began reading it flippantly, skeptical about the idea of an epic romance being contained in under 100 pages.
However, this book wasn't what I expected.
First of all, it wasn't an "epic romance." I had imagined it being much like a man version of "Titanic."
And secondly, I certainly didn't see Proulx's powerful writing coming.
In such a small amount of paper, the author covers 20 years, and pulls it off more than successfully. "Brokeback Mountain" may be a short story, but it impacts the reader like a full-fledged novel that you've been reading and loving for weeks.
Sure, Proulx could have written this tale as a detailed, long, volume. But her writing clearly points out for itself that she doesn't need to.
Her simplistic, to the point prose was a bit hard to get used to, but after a few pages, I was thanking her for it. She includes minor little "supporting" details without ever going into them, giving you a picture of a character in a sentence when other writers would take a chapter. Her writing is short and sweet - or, better put - short and bitter.
Because if there is a word that does not describe this book, it is sweet. Annie Proulx writes with unabashed, realistic, often dirty prose. Her tale is straight black coffee - cowboys didn't have fancy espresso machines, whipped cream, and sugary sprinkles, after all.
I was impressed at the way she handled the two main character's relationship. There was no "gazing into his beautiful brown eyes" business. There was no romanticizing it, no beautification. It was a solid, honest story about two men. Their relationship begins with unromantic, unfeeling sex, for example. Not passionate sex, or a sex scene that belongs in a Harlequin. Just sex. The feelings come later, but still without touching up, without airbrushing.
There was no epic here - it could very believably have been labeled a true story. And if it had been, it wouldn't have been the dramatic, popular story that the Titanic became. Because, fundamentally, this book is quite normal. Jack and Ennis are everyday men with ordinary, average lives. One would probably be inclined to say, in fact, that their lives were more than a bit mundane.
But underneath this violent, hardened world that the reader is drawn into, lies, somewhere, a love story.
It is not an obvious love story, or an amazing love story - it is simply a love story.
Does it need to be anything else?