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Brokeback Mountain | Study Guide

Annie Proulx

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Annie Proulx | Biography


Annie Proulx was born in Norwich, Connecticut, on August 22, 1935. Her mother was a painter and her father worked in textiles. Around age 10 Proulx wrote her first short story. She graduated from the University of Vermont in 1969 with a history degree. Moving to Canada to continue her education, she received a master's degree in history from Montreal's Concordia University in 1973. After working two years toward a Ph.D. in history, Proulx decided she preferred writing to an academic career and left Concordia to write full time.

Another incentive to leave her studies was the need to support her children. According to Proulx she married and divorced "too many times" and was a single mother raising three sons when she began her writing career. Proulx's three marriages and divorces may have influenced her writing. She says of her marriages, "I could not operate in a conventional family." In general her plots do not dwell on lifelong romances or happy endings. Instead her writing more often touches on difficult personal situations, while her vivid geographical descriptions turn her settings into characters. Proulx's attention to regional and period-appropriate diction also breathes life into her characters.

After authoring a string of nonfiction books, she turned to short stories and her first collection Heart Songs, and Other Stories, was published in 1988. Her debut novel, Postcards, was published in 1992, and it won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. She was the first woman to receive that award. Proulx's second novel, The Shipping News, captured the 1993 National Book Award for Fiction and went on to win the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 1996 she published the novel, Accordion Crimes. Then in 1997 "Brokeback Mountain" appeared in The New Yorker magazine and won an O. Henry Award. The short story was published as part of the collection Close Range: Wyoming Stories in 1999 and again as a standalone book in 2005—when it was also made into an Oscar-winning movie.

Additional Proulx works include:

  • That Old Ace in the Hole (2002)
  • Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2 (2004)
  • Fine Just the Way It is: Wyoming Stories 3 (2008)
  • Barkskins (2016)

In 2011 she wrote a memoir called Bird Cloud which includes the story of the building of her Wyoming ranch in 2004 after relocating to Wyoming in 1994. After 20 years in the state, Proulx left Wyoming for the Pacific Northwest.

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