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Tag Archives: Annie Proulx

“I wondered if the American penchant for self-invention was somehow related to the seminal immigrant experience, in which one had to renounce the past, give up the old culture, language, history, religion, even one’s birth name, and replace the old self with American ideals, language, a new name and new ways.

“A major aim in writing Accordion Crimes was to show the powerful government and social pressures on foreigners that forced them into the so-called melting pot. The social pressures were enormous, and the cost of assimilation was staggering for the immigrants—their lives were often untimely truncated. They did not belong, they were ridiculed outsiders, they worked at the most miserable and dangerous jobs. They gave up personal identification and respect. The successes went to their children, the first generation of American-born. These American children commonly rejected the values, clothing, language, religion, food, music of their parents in their zeal to be 100 percent American.”

– Annie Proulx

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“Metaphors — a complex subject. What is involved in constructing them seems not so much a matter of seeking similitude or trying for explanation or description as multilevel word and image play. Metaphors set up echoes and reflections, not only of tone and color but of meaning in the story. The use of running metaphors in a piece — all related in some way to indigestion or water or loneliness or roller skates, or with a surrealistic or violent cast — will guide the reader in a particular direction as surely as stock can be herded. For me, metaphors come in sheets of three or four at once, in floods, and so metaphor use often concerns selection rather than construction. There are private layers of meaning in metaphor that may be obscure to the reader but which have —beyond the general accepted meanings of the words — resonance for the writer through personal associations of language, ideas, impressions. So the writer may be using metaphor to guide the reader and deepen the story, for subtle effects but also for sheer personal pleasure in word play.

“I was very young, about three years old, when introduced to metaphor, and I remember the first sharp pleasure I felt in playing what seemed a kind of game. I was with my mother in the kitchen of our small house. Classical music came out of the radio. I was not consciously listening until my mother, who was a skilled watercolorist, said, ‘What does this music make you think about, what do you see?’ Immediately I translated the music I heard into an image. ‘A bishop running through the woods,’ I answered. I had no idea what a bishop was but liked the word for its conjunction of hiss and hiccup. What the music made me see in my mind’s eye was a tall, glassy, salt-cellar figure — the bishop — gliding through a dark forest dappled with round spots of light. The connections of perception between the sounds of the music and the image of trees / slipping figure / broken light had been made. Thereafter, and forever more, I found myself constantly involved in metaphoric observation.”

– Annie Proulx

“…a man almost invisible under a flop-rimmed hat, cracked spectacles, full beard and a mustache the size of a dead squirrel.”

– Annie Proulx, “The Sagebrush Kid,” Fine Just the Way It Is

“The Furs had been married seven years but had no children. Mizpah was a little cracked on the subject and traded one of Bill’s good shirts to a passing emigrant wagon for a baby pig, which she dressed in swaddling clothes and fed from a nipple-fitted bottle… The piglet one day tripped over the hem of the swaddling dress and was carried off by a golden eagle. Mrs. Fur, bereft, traded another of her husband’s shirts to a passing emigrant wagon for a chicken. She did not make the swaddling gown mistake twice, but fitted the chicken with a light leather jerkin and a tiny bonnet. The bonnet acted as blinders and the unfortunate poult never saw the coyote that seized her within the hour.”

– Annie Proulx, “The Sagebrush Kid,” Fine Just the Way It Is

“‘Kid, I can’t see nothin’,’ called Sink. He stopped and dismounted, went to Archie. The earlier snow had melted as fast as it touched that red, feverish face, but gradually, just a fraction of an inch above the surface of the hot flesh, a mask of ice now formed a grey glaze. Sink thought the mask could become the true visage.”

– Annie Proulx, “Them Old Cowboy Songs,” Fine Just the Way It Is

“Back in the swamp it was just coming light, like grey polish on the cold world, the air so still Archie could see the tiny breath cloud of a finch on a willow twig.”

– Annie Proulx, “Them Old Cowboy Songs,” Fine Just the Way It Is

“He kept to himself pretty much, often staring into the distance, but every man had something of value beyond the horizon.”

– Annie Proulx, “Them Old Cowboy Songs,” Fine Just the Way It Is

“For the first time she recognized that they were not two cleaving halves of one person but two separate people, and that because he was a man he could leave any time he wanted, and because she was a woman she could not. The cabin reeked of desertion and betrayal.”

– Annie Proulx, “Them Old Cowboy Songs,” Fine Just the Way It Is

“Only earth and sky matter. Only the endlessly repeated flood of morning light. You begin to see that God does not owe us much beyond that.”

– Annie Proulx, “People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water”