Annie Proulx Revisits Brokeback Territory in New Book

Brokeback Mountain author Annie Proulx has a brand new book of short stories out, Fine Just the Way It Is, based once again on the American west. It also contains at least two stories with gay and lesbian content, according to Band of Thebes: “‘Them Old Cowboy Songs,’ is a heartbreaker about a teenage married couple, Archie and Rose, struggling in the unyielding West of 1885. Archie leaves Rose alone and pregnant while he goes to cowhand on a ranch whose owner won’t hire married men and whose foreman is gay. The sexual tension in the all male setting is constant, and seemingly expected.

ProulxHere’s one passage:

“Later Sink took the kid aside and put the boo on him, told him the facts of life, said that old Lon would bull him good if he ever agreed to get in a bedroll with him, said that the leathery old foreman was well known for bareback riding of new young hires. Archie, who’d seen it all at Peck’s bunkhouse, gave him a look as though he suspected Sink of the same base designs, said he could take care of himself and if anyone tried anything on him he’d clean his plow good. He moved off. When Sink came in from watch at the past-midnight hour, he walked past the foreman’s bedroll but there was only a solitary head sticking out from under the tarpaulin; the kid was somewhere far away in the sage with the coyotes. Just the same, thought Sink, he would watch Lon the next time he got into the red disturbance and started spouting that damn poem about Italian music in Dakota, for the top screw was a sure-enough twister.”

Proulx’s First Book Since Brokeback Movie Again Includes Gays [band of thebes]
Fine Just the Way It Is [amazon]


  1. Daniel says

    I’ve seen her read at Tattered Cover in Denver to an adoring audience–people who dig her work with a passion–and this was years before BBMtn. was a film. But this excerpt reminds me of that contest (Bulwer-Lytman?) that aims for the worst opening sentence of a novel that’s not really written. The B-L contest winners for 2008 were released earlier this week & this reads about as well as some of those entries. A national treasure? I just don’t get that. But what the hell, more power to her. I don’t calculus, either, while others do…

  2. says

    *SNATCH* good one, Crispy!

    i’m looking forward to reading this..Proulx IS a national treasure and her work is powerful..she IS one of the models for short stories writers out there, i think.

    i’m expecting Ang Lee, Gus Van Sant, or someone along those lines to buy the rights to one of those stories and make it into a film…

  3. crispy says

    There’s a rancher named Sink who is warning the new kid on the ranch that the wrinkly old foreman likes to fuck the young ranch hands.

    It’s no different from the conversation that occurs every time David Ehrenstein walks into a gay bar.

  4. anon says

    I think this is a good example of when prose crosses the threshold from idiomatic to idiotic. “put the boo on” as opposed to “scare”, “bull him good” instead of “fuck”, “clean his plow good” as opposed to ?? “scalp”?, “into a red disturbance”?, “for the top screw was a sure-enough twister.”?

    All this in just one paragraph? Plus, no paragraph breaks, just to be “edgy”. “Riders of the Purple Sage” this is not.

  5. crispy says

    I like the language. It sets the tone.

    I do have to agree with you on the paragraph breaks though. But I wonder if those were lost in the copy/paste.

    PS: “red disturbance” = whiskey

  6. Andalusian Dog says

    I think “top screw” means someone who organizes ranch-hands, i.e., leader of the ranchers. I just looked it up. From the context, it seems as though “twister” may be a derogatory word for a gay guy. But who knows? Aside from it being incomprehensible, this writing is not entirely interesting, even after translation.

  7. brian z says

    a pox on her straight white lady capital g Gay Fantasia. of three homosexualists in that movie one is beaten to death with a tire iron, one is a hustler, and one ends up Tragically Alone Forever pissing in the sink in a trailer house on the ol’ windswept prairie. pardner. at least he wasn’t an alcoholic.

  8. crispy says

    You are so right, Brian Z. It’s ridiculous that her story didn’t feature happy gay couples, gay marriages, and other wonderful rights that gays enjoyed back in the early 60s.

    PS: Anyone who thinks Jack Twist was beaten to death by a tire iron apparently didn’t get Brokeback Mountain to begin with.

Leave A Reply