Heart Songs and Other Stories

by E. Annie Proulx

Hardcover, 1988

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

Charles Scribner's Sons (1988), Edition: First Edition, 160 pages

Description

This is the first collection of short stories from the author of the widely acclaimed bestseller and Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Shipping News.

User reviews

LibraryThing member kmaziarz
Perhaps most famous these days for her short story (adapted into a movie) “Brokeback Mountain,” Annie Proulx has plumbed the depths of the American Great Plains in her collections of Wyoming stories. But before she wrote about the prairie, Proulx set many of her tales in rural New England.

In “Heart Songs and Other Stories,” a collection published in 1995, Proulx explores both the traditions of these backwoods areas and families, and also the myriad ways in which the modern world is intruding and changing traditional ways. In writing about rural areas, a sense of romanticism is often evident, but not here. Proulx’s writing is clear-eyed and unsentimental about the people and places she is describing, while her language manages to be both lyrical and vivid. She is at her strongest when relating the details of the quotidian. The stories, like the people in them, simmer with emotions deep below the surface, but are outwardly reserved and undemonstrative. Standouts include the title story, “Stone City,” and “Negatives.”… (more)
LibraryThing member michaelmurphy
Excellent collection of short stories by one of the very best short story writers, set in a rural community where poor country folk struggle to eke out a living. Tough, gritty stories with a deep-rooted connection to the land that give full play to the author's gift for capturing rugged, rural landscape in all its moods. Hunting and fishing provides an unusual backdrop for some of the human dramas played out: revenge, ill-will, greed, infidelity, passion and jealously, violence and death are all strong presences in these stringent stories so don't be misled by the tame hunting and fishing reference. Annie Proulx creates a cast of vivid characters - eccentric, downtrodden, down and out, malicious and conniving - bringing them alive in the space of a striking image or phrase.

A strong theme threading through several stories is the clash of values of two very different worlds: the world of wealthy outsiders from the city who come with their soft hands and soft bellies sporting their flash hunting gear and brand new boots -their rifles new and shiny, just like their cars - bringlng unwelcome improvements impinging on the land, customs and traditions of the poor rural community. My personal favourite of the collection is Stone City: a hunter stumbles on a remote, derelict farm high up on the snow-covered wooded hillsides but senses an atmosphere of evil pervading the abandoned ruin, Stone City, once owned by the Stone family, old man Stone and his brood of wild, unruly offspring. Gradually, more shocking revelations about the Stones and the grim past of Stone City come to light. Try also Annie Proulx's other superb short story collection of Wyoming stories, Close Range. Both books highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member juniperSun
I usually don't like short story collections because many collections become repetitive or weak the further you read. In contrast, the majority of stories in this collection held my interest, which is a curious response since I also find that their are similar themes in groups of the stories in addition to an overriding theme of the differences between local and new residents of a rural location. "On the Antler" and "Stone City" both seem to reflect impotent resentment (a bumper sticker I recently saw defines this: Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die). "Bedrock", "A Country Killing" and "Negatives" all revolve around a woman using sex to get something from a man. "The Unclouded Day" and "The Wer-Trout" both have a man pulling a trick on another, tho the motives are different. So many of these stories are written from a man's perspective, which I think is unusual for a female author, especially those with the focus on outdoor sports so often considered the realm of males. Proulx makes note of the type of flies and fishing rod, guns, and classic books on fishing.

Proulx's desciptive phrases create vivid mental images: "the resinous odor of kindling catching fire", "the brainless rasp of cicadas, as irritating as burrs", "the patinated words gliding under his eyes like a river coursing over polished stones", "tendrils of hot grouse scent lying on the moist air as solidly as cucumber vines on the garden earth"...there is a wealth of phrases in every story.

I enjoy reading about good people: Santee, in "The Unclouded Day", with his strong sense of what is right; the acceptance of their lives shown by the family in "A Run of Bad Luck", where Clover draws strength from sitting next to his father, Mae can appreciate the way her husband Haylett "never let her or anyone get into a cold truck and sit shivering while the engine bleated and failed" even tho he doesn't say much to her or look her in the eye. Haylett is wise enough to see that his older son isn't just having a run of bad luck but "It's his life. It's the way his life is turnin' out, and he don't know it yet."
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LibraryThing member wareagle78
This book of short stories, set in New England, is bleak. Set in the country, mostly among those who have little by way of dreams, aspirations, or money, the tales were harsh and left me without resolution.

The strong point of the stories is the descriptive ability of the author. She is able to summon a picture of a place, a time, or a type of person very deftly.… (more)
LibraryThing member AngelaJMaher
These stories are well crafted, with wonderful characterisation, and fantastic descriptions, but I can't say I really liked them. On the whole they are about unhappy people, most with unhappy relationships, some end oddly, and all made me feel rather gloomy. If they weren't so well written, and original, I would have given it a much lower rating. They are great examples of good writing, but not something to cosy up with and enjoy.… (more)

Language

Original language

English
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