Close Range: Wyoming Stories – Annie Proulx

CRThe film ‘Brokeback Mountain’ was all the rage when we decided to read this book – not just the story which led to the film but a range of other stuff by her.

Two things amazed – a woman writing with understanding about gay men’s stuff but also the way in which cinema audiences reacted. In an art house cinema the love scenes were met with a reverent hush. In other cinemas they were met with embarrassed giggles, popcorn cracking and Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells walking out.

Her stories have a strong sense of place – Distance, Returning home for a funeral – looks the same, recognises every rock The Half-Skinned Steer People relish the drive to a job in a bigger town. The fire engine takes three hours. Wyoming – its hardness imprinted on him, none of the others came back (after war) and who can blame them? A Lonely Coast. In fact, this sense of place is what most impressed out group – miles and miles of barren, unyielding, hostile landscape.

There’s extreme weather – Snow The Half-Skinned Steer Blizzard knocks out power The Mud Below Don’t dare piss for fear of being rooted to the spot in snow The Blood Bay Everlasting drought People in Hell just want a drink of water. Bodies of the dead stock emerge from snow, never seen so much goddam weather in two weeks Pair a Spurs

There’s a lack of prudishness – a boy called shorty but his mother tells him he wasn’t short-changed in the department below A 7th grade boy masturbated while half asleep.

There’s brutalality – castrating horses – There’s blood in his bull-stuff. Quick sex – while woman still dry. Pour boiling water on rattle-snakes People in Hell just want a drink of Water. Underwear stained with blood. Infant hurled into water. Brucellosis, take care of your own damned self .

Types of people are acutely observed: Rodeo for concrete-heads; ambitious mother wants son to go to college instead of being a rodeo bum; Lack of job security; Baby-sitter is abused; Vain cowboy buys boots instead of warm clothes;, Shins cut off to get the boots; Man claims to be single to get work; Boys were money in the bank ; Ras asks complicated questions so leaves home but returns after an accident and is castrated; Too much taste in dandy if not experienced before age 14; Paper explains comet but that’s what they want you to believe; Men have flaw – when wife dies.

There’s specialist knowledge: If fall off horse in rodeo, whatever is broken, run away .

Religion: a Christian geologist believes 6 days’ creation; Jesus not a married man but a cowboy The Mud Below

As for homosexuality: I’m no queer. A one shot thing. Drive away in opposite directions – sick. ‘Did quickly what she hated – after fingering, tire iron pulled off dick. ‘I wish I knew how to quit you.’ Jack’s father had to be the stud duck in the pond. Jack planned someone else to help with ranch.

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