Jun. 2nd, 2017

sarahmichigan: (reading)
Book No. 29 was "Close Range: Wyoming Stories" by Annie Proulx. This short story collection is probably best known for containing "Brokeback Mountain." I wanted to read it because I loved her earlier novel, "The Shipping News." Proulx's writing is wonderful, with gorgeous and spot-on descriptions of how bleak and dangerous the landscape and climate of Wyoming are. She also knows how to craft a tale to keep you in suspense, or to introduce an innocuous line or detail early in the story that takes on more meaning later in the story. All that being said, the book was chock full of violent, unlikeable characters. There were very few I liked or identified with. Even though the emotion of "Brokeback Mountain" is beautiful, both main characters are violent and problematic in their own ways, as when Ennis threatens to kill Jack if he ever finds out Jack has been seeing other men. If you're just curious about the book because of the movie "Brokeback Mountain," I'd suggest reading that story and skipping the rest. If you're not put off by violent, flawed characters, then several other short stories were worth reading for how well crafted they were, including "The Half-Skinned Steer" (very eerie) and "The Blood Bay" (black humor). A few other stories kind of felt like filler or writing exercises (i.e. "Job History"). Proulx is a master at her craft, though, and I'd definitely read more by her.

Book No. 30 was "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien. I believe I ran across this title because it's a favorite book of Natalie Goldberg, who is one of my favorite authors who writes about the craft of writing. It is considered a short story collection, and sometimes creative writing classes assign specific stories, but it hangs together as a novel as well, because it follows the same troop of soldiers in the Vietnam War and the aftermath of what they experience together. It's just beautiful and masterful, as well as having a streak of black humor. I felt like I was holding my breath in the way you do when you stumble across a gorgeous landscape unexpectedly. His storytelling is just magic. Highly recommended.

The other books I've read so far this year: )

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