Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx

I have read Annie’s Shipping News when I was in university doing my Bachelor degree. I still remember the sensation of reading the story though I have forgot the most of the  details. It is rough but with soft spots; simple structure but with complicated psychological activities; beautiful but somethings brutal.

I read Close Range without knowing she is the author of Brokeback Mountain ( I have watched the movies twice but never have the intention of reading the book). I read it because I was fascinated by Wyoming area (it has amazing geographic history).  It is a collection of short stories written with a background of Wyoming. I love Brokeback Mountain the most, following by Job History, The Blood Bay and People in Hell just want a Drink of Water.

Here I just want to discussed a bit of Brokeback Mountain:

There are debates whether Jack and Ennis are true gay. Some people said Jack is true gay but Ennis is passively gay; some people said they are not true gay at all because they don’t have relationship with other guys (at lease it is the case with Ennis: “I never had no thoughts a doin it with another guy except I sure wrang it out a hundred times thinking about you”); Some said they are bisexual (and some even claim all human being are potentially bisexual) because they are both married with women and have no problem having sex with women.

To me, I don’t care if they are gay or not. I love this story because it is really touching and sad. There is true love between these two people and their longing to each other never easing. But it doom to be a tragedy because society think this is not normal, even themselves are afraid of the expose of the truth. They try to be “Normal” but they just can’t. So they constantly sought each other, run away, denied but once and once again came back together. I think human being would be happier if they stop judging themselves and others by sex. I am human, you are human, we are just one of the human being, nothing to do with sex please.

“They never talked about the sex” but just let it happen when they have feeling to do so. Once Ennis said “I am not no queer” and Jack jumped in with “Me neither. A one-shot thing. Nobody’s business but ours.” They don’t like to talk about it because they feel shame and hope this would be just one-off.

After Ennis married Alma, they are very likely to have regular sex like most men and women. But Ennis desired the anus–the annus sex remind him the good old time with Jack.

“Ennis, slipping his hand up her blouse sleeve and stirring the silky armpit hair, then easing her down, fingers moving up her ribs to the jelly breast, over the round belly and knee and up into the wet gap all the way to the north pole or the equator depending which way you thought you were sailing, working at it until she shuddered and bucked against his hand and he rolled her over, did quickly what she hated.”

All this passion and desire built up and growing year by year. When they saw each other, they just couldn’t control themselves–from that moment, they realized they just can never apart (till death). “A hot jolt scalded Ennis and he was out on the landing pulling the door closed behind him. Jack took the stairs two and two. They seized each other by the shoulders, hugged mightily, squeezing the breath out of each other, saying, son of a bitch, son of bitch, then, and easily as the right key turns the lock tumblers, their mouths came together, and hard, Jack’s big teeth bringing blood, his hat falling to the floor…” It is so intensive, so desperate, one.two, three, they locked with each other like next minute they will never see each other.

They are both married and have families. But it is not a big problem if they really want to live together as partners as Ennis had divorced Alma, Jack’s wife didn’t care at all. But fear still hovering in their hearts. Ennis told Jack how people treat the gay people when he was 9 years old. There were an opening gay couple, Earl and Rich, with tough characters. When people found Earl dead, “they ‘d took a tire iron to him, spurred him up, drug him around by his dick until it pulled off, just bloody pulp. What the tire iron done looked like pieces a burned tomatoes all over him, nose tore down from skidding on gravel.” This horrible experience and the disapproval attitude from their fathers towards gays discourage them to live together. They afraid (at lease Ennis, who is more conservative, feared they will be severely punished by society).

But can they quit each other? No.

“One thing never changed: the brilliant charge of their infrequent couplings was darkened by the sense of time flying, never enough time, never enough.”

Jack: “You’re too much for me, Ennis, you son of a whoreson bitch. I wish I knew how to quit you.”

“Like vast clouds of steam from thermal springs in winter the years of things unsaid and now unsayable–admissions, declarations, shames, guilt, fears–rose around them.”

It is a tragedy because Brokeback sealed their best time and they can never come back. In Brokeback, no one bothered them, no moral restriction and self-deny. Love, like fire in winter time, draw them together, naturally. They are happy and fearless, like two puppies. Brokeback protected them from all those discrimination and rules of civilization. Once they left Brokeback, things changed. Without the protection of remote mountain, they became weak. They still love each other, but at the same time hurting each other. They can only seek love from having sex while the best part of love is sexless, a kind of love that is quiet and without disruption or interfere by the world outside.

“What Jack remembered and craved in a way he could neither help nor understand was the time that distant summer on Brokeback when Ennis had come up behind him and pulled him close, the silent embrace satisfying some shared and sexless hunger”

Before the possible deny and punishment, they denied and punished themselves until death took over Jack. If one has to die and why not we just enjoy ourselves. Why we have to care so much of what other people think? Not sure if Ennis would start asking these question but everything is too late. Sad.

Extensive Reading:

Reading from behind: A Cultural Analysis of the Anus.


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