Annie Proulx’s novel “The Shipping News” won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, and her stories include “Brokeback Mountain,” the basis for the Academy Award-winning film. Her latest story collection, “Fine Just the Way It Is,” is her third set in Wyoming. In nine pieces, she explores the hard lives of aging cowboys, ranch hands and pioneers, and especially the lot of women. She recently responded to questions from the Wall Street Journal, including a discussion of how “Brokeback” has been “the source of constant irritation in my private life.”
WSJ: What effect did the success of “Brokeback Mountain” have on your writing life, if any?
Ms. Proulx: “Brokeback Mountain” has had little effect on my writing life, but is the source of constant irritation in my private life. There are countless people out there who think the story is open range to explore their fantasies and to correct what they see as an unbearably disappointing story. They constantly send ghastly manuscripts and pornish rewrites of the story to me, expecting me to reply with praise and applause for “fixing” the story. They certainly don’t get the message that if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it. Most of these “fix-it” tales have the character Ennis finding a husky boyfriend and living happily ever after, or discovering the character Jack is not really dead after all, or having the two men’s children meet and marry, etc., etc. Nearly all of these remedial writers are men, and most of them begin, “I’m not gay but….” They do not understand the original story, they know nothing of copyright infringement—i.e., that the characters Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar are my intellectual property—and, beneath every mangled rewrite is the unspoken assumption that because they are men they can write this story better than a woman can. They have not a clue that the original “Brokeback Mountain” was part of a collection of stories about Wyoming exploring mores and myths. The general impression I get is that they are bouncing off the film, not the story. There’s more, but that is enough, ok?
Read the full interview from the Wall Street Journal.
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