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December 02, 2008

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Chad Love: Brokeback Tree Stand

I'm probably going to catch a lot of flack for this post, but here goes anyway: I love Annie Proulx. I think she's one of the best American novelists and short-story writers this country has produced in the past quarter-century. I particularly enjoyed her book "That Old Ace in the Hole" because it's set in my beloved southern plains of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.

Great, but what does this have to do with hunting or fishing? Interesting story, that.

You see, Annie Proulx is also famous for writing a little short story called....(insert dramatic pause here)..."Brokeback Mountain," that by-now-infamous tale of two lonely cowboys, one tent, a bunch of sheep, and a lot of free time.

Now to say that "Brokeback Mountain" was a controversial film is something of an understatement. But what's really interesting to me is that prior to hitting the publishing big-time, Annie Proulx was ... (insert additional dramatic pause here) ... a hunting and fishing writer!

That's right. Strange factoid of the day: the gal who penned "Brokeback Mountain" got her start writing stories for Gray's Sporting Journal.

From an old interview in The Missouri Review.

I started writing nonfiction, mostly magazine journalism and how-to books, for income. At the same time I began to write short fiction, mostly stories about hunting and fishing and rural life in northern New England, subjects that interested me intensely at the time. Almost all of these stories were published in Gray's Sporting Journal, then a new and strikingly beautiful quarterly concerned with the outdoor world in the same way Hemingway's Nick Adams stories are about the outdoor world—the primary weight on literature, not sport. There was an intense camaraderie and shared literary excitement among the writers whose fiction appeared in Gray's, something I have never encountered since. It may have been that the struggles to get paid by Gray's created a bond of shared adversity among the writers; it may have been the genuine pleasure in being part of this unusual publication that valued serious outdoor writing in contrast to the hook-and-bullet mags.

Now I must quibble a bit with her assertion that only Gray's valued serious outdoor writing. Gray's was founded in 1975, and while I was still wearing Tuffskins and chasing lizards back then, in 1975 the big three sporting mags (and especially F&S, in my opinion) were still very much at the forefront of serious, literary outdoor writing. Still, I think it's fascinating that the author behind the most culturally polarizing film of the past few years credits her outdoors writing background as the genesis of her later mainstream success.



Keep taking chances, Chad. I'm REALLY enjoying the quality of your writing. F&S got lucky to find you. I'm not sure how they did, though, if you really live somewhere out in Oklahoma or Texas lol!

I'd like to see you get your own regular op.ed. page in the mag each month.

It's encouraging to see everyone's posts and know that there are still people out there who read and can have a great discussion on the merits of their favorite authors or works. This blog post has turned into one of my favorites due to everyone's comments.

king Ranch morgans

cormac mcCarthy just dicovered his stuff about a month ago, (i know where have i been) and i was absolutly blown away. I instantly fell in love with " All the Pretty Horses." an amazing classic tale which can come from nowhere but the heart, its deep truthfull stuff. ive spent my life to this point reading Louis L'amore and Zane Gray and other such writers, but, i now realize they lack the heart and depth that I am seaching for. And mcCarthys work has that. Thanks for opening me up to some other outdoor writers, ill try them out.

D. A.

F & S had "HILL COUNTRY" - everyone else also ran.

hal herring

The book of No Country for Old Men stands up pretty good to All the Pretty Horses. I grew up on L'amour and Zane Grey, too, and
there's alot there still to admire- L'amour's To Tame a Land, for instance, and the Alaska books like "Sitka." when I was nine years old I spent months playing Wetzel in Zane Grey's Spirit of the Border, which I have a hard time reading as an adult but was everything I ever wanted to read as kid- who could beat Buzzard Jim Girty, and the scalping renegades, and the idea of a huge dangerous country there for the roaming?

McMurtry's Lonesome Dove gets my best vote for a western, with Walter Van Tilburg Clark's Oxbow Incident coming in next (great movie with Henry Fonda, too). Charles Portis' True Grit, which just got re-issued this year, blows away the movie they made of it. Maybe it runs a close second to Lonesome Dove.

I fall asleep on Eudora Welty's novels, too, but still read her short stories. "The Wide Net," about all these people trying to seine up a young woman that everybody thinks has jumped in the river and drowned remains among my favorite short stories ever. It is super funny, too, just like "Why I Live at the PO."

The 1890's Fench writer Guy de Maupassant has some great hunting and fishing stories - "A Pleasant Outing" about fishing during the Prussian siege of Paris is one of the saddest real fishing stories ever written.

This has been a great column/blog, whatver you call it. I totally agree that McCarthy, for example would not exist without Faulkner- Hemingway once said that, basically, none of them, including himself, would exist without Twain and Huckleberry Finn.

I still like Eraserhead, though. The time that you see a movie or read a book is critical - when you are twelve years old, The Outlaw Josey Wales is the highest form of art. At nineteen, Eraserhead or Blue Velvet or Wild at Heart blows you away. I read Peter Matthiessen's At Play in the Fields of the Lord when I was seventeen, and by the next year I was standing on the bank of the Amazon, still lost in that book (and fishing for catfish and little pan-sized piranhas, and hunting hoatzins (a big bird) with a 28 gauge shogun with brass shells that you reloaded after every shot.) And it was that book that set me on that journey. That is the kind of thing I associate with reading and literature.
Not being trapped in a classroom reading some book that is the equivalent of shoveling Valiums in your mouth.

That's all for me.

Chad Love

DA, as far as writing about hunting with dogs the combination of Gene Hill and Bill Tarrant has never been matched by another magazine.

Steve Bodio

I just got sent here by a friend-- great stuff!

Mostly I can just second much of this-- Annie, Cormac, most Harrison, the immortal Abbey, the two McGuane novels mentioned at least (and his hunting and fishing writing). How about some cheers for Vance Bourjaily, father of one of F & S's bloggers, who wrote great scenes of duck hunting and other outdoor stuff into his novels as well as a fine "literary" book about bird hunting, The Unnatural Enemy?


As one of the old Gray's circle, I know a bit about it. Think McGuane could publish "The Heart of the Game" in Outside today, between the ads and the snowboarders?

king ranch morgans

Ralph Compton, The Nathan Stone Trilogy, nothin with to much depth and meanin but still a favorite in my teenage years while everyone else was reading the outsiders

Chad Love

Did I mention that Steve Bodio is also one of my favorite authors...?

Actually Steve, I should probably give Querencia credit for the Annie Proulx post.
I was reading your link to the story about her leaving Wyoming, started doing a little searching and stumbled on the Missouri Review interview.

Chad Love

Hal, I didn't mean to imply I didn't like Lynch films anymore, they're still a hoot, but for me they've devolved from a serious work of cinema to more of a period piece of youthful camp...

Loved your story about Matthiessen.

hal herring

Understood, Chad, understood. For me, it is still the timing of it -Big Art hits you when you are ready for it. Time and experience changes what hits you the hardest. I have a hard time imagining what I'd think of say, Blue Velvet, if I saw it now for the first time. Probably not so much. I fell asleep on Mulholland Drive quite a few times before I finished it- and the dreams were real weird, too, I can tell you.

Holy Smokes, you've raised Steve Bodio! and his work definitely fits right in with the very best of what we've discussed here.

Steve is dead on, too. Where WOULD you publish the Heart of the Game now? Or even the Longest Silence (McGuane's piece on tarpon fishing)? Most likely in a lit review, or Creative Nonfiction, and get paid in contributors copies while the wife and kids wept in your hobo camp under the overpass!

I'll have to look up Ralph Compton.I appreciate that suggestion.

hal herring

Oh yeah, I forgot. I've always been a big Ed Abbey fan (my father's favorite movie was "Lonely are the Brave" which was based on Abbey's first novel), but of all his writing, I believe that it is his last novel The Fool's Progress, that is most complete as a work of art. I was shocked by how good he really was as a writer, when he let go a little bit of his anger and instruction, and just told a heavy story.


Are we pushing Intertextuality and Semiotics here?

Asking since I’m an Umberto Eco fan, too.

Chad Love

Agreed. I think anyone who read "The Fools Progress" when it first came out knew that Abbey wasn't long for the world. The knowledge of his mortality certainly added something, a somberness to that novel lacking in his earlier fiction, some of which (I hate to admit as a devoted Abbeyite since junior high) was sort of workmanlike.

I am still, however, searching for that copy of Jonathon Troy tucked away forgotten in some dusty bookstore. I'd like to be able to retire someday and I figure first editions are a safer bet than Social Security...

Chad Love

Hey Mark! Intertextuality all the way here. Then again I've never read any Umberto Eco. Want to, though. He's on that ever-growing list of authors I need to read. Foucault's Pendulum sounds pretty cool.

My problem is so many great books, so little time and such a tiny brain to process it all...


From her photo and bio, looks like she had some first hand experience up on the Brokenback Mountain. Maybe she could get a carpet cleaning business going if the books don't sell

Matt Penttila

I will say this... I didn't watch the movie or read the book because it doesn't interest me. If it interests you, go to it and have fun. If not, then don't.
Also remember this, it's a free country, you are free to do whatever you want under the laws of the land, and if you want to read her works, no one can stop you from doing that.

Good luck and happy reading.


Eco's essay (and book of the same title) "How To Travel With A Salmon" is great fun.



Prof Eco wrote the textbook on Intertextuality and Semiotics. ....Very good novelist and easy reading even after being translated to English. Lots of history, too.

Foucault's Pendulum has to do with Templars [neat since I'm heavy into Masonics and a Templar]. The novel IMHO sorta explores the tendency people when there's a gap in knowledge to fill in the gaps with pretty fruity stuff.


Dear Chad L.

I made a few comments, apparently beyond the scope of good taste, though I found them humerous, BUT, they were considered SPAM and the previewers decided not to display them in the blog.

Since they didn't seem to like that, I'll say this.
If you enjoy short stories, ala Gene Hill, pick up something by Lewis Grizzard. He, too, can have you laughing on one page only to flip the page and have to wipe away tears.

Keep up the good work Chad L.. I've enjoyed your posts even before they allowed you to toss your own stuff out there. I find you most enjoyable to read!


Chad Love

Bubba, you're not the only one. I'm finding that pretty much everything I write is beyond the scope of good taste...

Steve Bodio

Thanks, Chad-- I appreciate it, and will check this blog often.


Some additions to the "List".

1)Rick Bass. Nine Mile Wolves,Brown dog of the Yaak.
2)Barry Lopez. Artic Dreams.
3)Doug Peacock ( Best friend of Edward Abbey ). Walking it off, In search of the American Wilderness.
4)Petter Matthiessen. The Snow Leopard.

Dipstick. Her books do sell, they are good enough to be turned into movies that get nominated for an Oscar....I saw the movie with my Wife and it was excellent....

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