Brokeback Mountain--Annie Proulx

Because it was short, and because I was casting about for something else during the time, and because I had it to hand, and because I was curious about the story, and because I was curious about whether I was missing something in Ms. Proulx's writing, and because it was Saturday, and because it was after midnight, and, well, just because.

The story, made famous by the film, is a spare portrait of two men who discover and repress their little-more-than-lust-and-a-lot-less-than-love for one another.  This is not a criticism of the theme--nor is it actually a criticism of the writing which is spare to the point of vanishing.  I'm not certain it is a criticism of anything about it--simply the story line.  The arc follows a trajectory of first encounter, separation, and final separation.

I suppose I wanted to be affected more--but Proulx's talent in writing is keeping you at so great a distance that you can either use the pythagorean theorem or other more algorithmic measures to analyze the elements of the story of you can toss it aside and move on to the next thing to read.  Which, ultimately, is what I did.

The thing about a minimalist prose style is that sometimes less is simply less.  It isn't more powerful, or more poetic, or more moving, or more incisive, or more real, or more true, or more anytihng. . . sometimes it is just less.  And that is how this short story/mini-novel struck me.  It was simply less.  There was less to latch on to, less to hold, less to care about, less to think about, less to worry, less to engage.

All of that said, I can understand how some might be engaged by this approach.  I've read a number of her stories--none of which impressed me, but one of which lingers with me for its sheer oddity.  I suspect that this one will not linger, its traces have already nearly vanished--which is a shame, because the theme writ large is an important one and transcends the questions of sexual identity--or could do so if Ms. Proulx had desired it to.  As it stands, it is a distant and cold trifle that explores the downside of sexual identity (in this case closeted homosexuality) but not the core of the theme of isolation--particularly male isolation from society at large and from one another in particular by the strange set of taboos and unspoken laws that govern most male behavior.

I can't fault Ms. Proulx for not writing the story I wanted to read.  Nor can I fault her approach, which was probably intended to heighten some effect or another.  In this regard, all I can say, is not to my taste.  Obviously, someone saw enough in it to produce another work of art, so my opinion is just dust in the wind.  But there you have it.



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