So Who Abducted the True Annie Proulx?

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BIRD CLOUD: A MEMOIR by Annie Proulx (4th Estate, [pounds sterling]16.99) I'VE long harboured a literary crush on Annie Proulx. At her best she's a world-class stylist, her prose as richly moist as her sensibility is dry. She can be a consummate storyteller too, as confident concocting such sparse, rugged stories of longing as Brokeback Mountain as she is with blustering narratives of pithy, pioneer resolve like That Old Ace in the Hole. Either way, Proulx's tales are always outsider romances, liberally sprinkled with the muscular, gnomic wit that has become the author's trademark.

Place always plays a big part in Proulx's work and you never have to scratch the surface hard to see the gnarly, tarnished interactions between dust-blown plains or roiling seas and the human psyche below.

In this respect Bird Cloud is no different, though to call this a memoir doesn't quite cut it. It's more of a collection of essays and recollections, loosely themed around the idea of home, the largest section documenting Proulx's attempts over a couple of years to build her dream house on a large and rugged slab of riverside property in rural Carbon County, Wyoming. A Year in Provence goes Wild West.

The first surprise is that Proulx's habitual flourishes of literary style have been replaced here with much cleaner, simpler journalistic prose. Nothing wrong with this except that the reader's interest is less likely to held by the writing itself than by the subject matter. …


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