Annie Proulx

American novelist, short story and non-fiction author (b. 1935)

Edna Annie Proulx (born August 22, 1935) is an American journalist and author, best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Shipping News and her short story Brokeback Mountain.

Annie Proulx, 2009.



Personal life and writing career

  • “Place and history are central to the fiction I write, both in the broad, general sense and in detailed particulars. Rural North America, regional cultures in critical economic flux, the images of an ideal and seemingly attainable world the characters cherish in their long views despite the rigid and difficult circumstances of their place and time. Those things interest me and are what I write about. I watch for the historical skew between what people have hoped for and who they thought they were and what befell them.”
  • “The construction of short stories calls for a markedly different set of mind than work on a novel, and for me short stories are at once more interesting and more difficult to write than longer work. The comparative brevity of the story dictates more economical and accurate use of words and images, a limited palette of events, fewer characters, tighter dialogue, strong title and punctuation that works to move the story forward. If the writer is trying to illustrate a particular period or place, a collection of short stories is a good way to take the reader inside a house of windows, each opening onto different but related views—a kind of flip book of place, time and manners.”
  • “Where a story begins in the mind I am not sure—a memory of haystacks, maybe, or wheel ruts in the ruined stone, the ironies that fall out of the friction between past and present, some casual phrase overheard. But something kicks in, some powerful juxtaposition, and the whole book shapes itself up in the mind…”
  • “It’s kind of an old-fashioned book…It’s long; it has a lot of characters; it takes a big theme. It isn’t a navel-staring, dysfunctional-family thing that’s so beloved of most American writers. It’s different, but I think people probably miss those books that were written some time ago – the big book that was written with care.”
  • “I have never fallen in love with one of my characters. The notion is repugnant. Characters are made to carry a particular story; that is their work. The only reason one shapes a character to look as he or she does, behave and speak in a certain way, suffer particular events, is to move the story forward in a particular direction. I do not indulge characters nor give them their heads and “see where they go,” and I don’t understand writers who drift downriver in company with unformed characters…”

Barkskins (2016)

  • In every life there are events that reshape one's sense of existence. Afterward, all is different and the past is dimmed.
  • As he cut, the wildness of the world receded, the vast invisible web of filaments that connected human life to animals, trees to flesh and bones to grass shivered as each tree fell and one by one the web strands snapped.
  • Deiter felt himself too old, lost in the forest of his own experience.
  • That world he wanted them to know had vanished as smoke deserts the dying embers that made it.
  • The future flickered before him as a likely series of disappointments.
  • In a knot of eight crossings, which is about the average-size knot, there are 256 different 'over-and-under' arrangements possible... Make only one change in this 'over and under' sequence and either an entirely different knot is made or no knot at all may result.
    • Intro
  • All stemmed from Quoyle's chief failure, a failure of normal appearance.
    • P. 2
  • Quoyle large, white, stumbling along going nowhere
    • P. 4
  • Quoyle, who spoke little himself, inspired talkers. His only skill in the game of life
    • P. 9
  • That was the stuff of other lives, he was waiting for his to begin. He got in the habit of walking around the trailer and asking aloud, "Who knows?" He said, "Who knows?" For no one knew. He meant, anything could happen. A spinning coin, still balanced on its rim, may fall in either direction.
    • P. 11
  • Quoyle with regards to Petal, his wife, "There was a month of fiery happiness. Then six kinked years of suffering...In another time, in another sex, she would have been Genghis Khan.
    • P. 13
  • Why do we weep in grief,' the aunt wondered. 'Dogs, deer, birds sufferent with dry eyes and in silence. The dumb suffering of animals. Probably a survival technique.
    • P. 24
  • Quoyle, you got any maritime connections?' 'My grandfather was a sealer.' 'Jesus. You always come out at me out of left field.
    • P. 30
  • Dad, there's smoke coming out of the can and coming out of your mouth, too. How do you do that, daddy?
    • P. 42
  • And three lucky stones strung on a wire to keep the house safe.
    • P. 45
  • the old place of the Quoyles, half ruined, isolated, the walls and doors of it pumiced by stony lives of dead generations. The aunt felt a hot pang. Nothing would drive them out a second time.
    • P. 47
  • He [Quoyle] did not want a boat, shied from the thought of water. Ashamed he could not swim, couldn't learn.
    • P. 49
  • 'Dad, are we scared?' said Sunshine. 'No, honey. It's an adventure.
    • P. 51
  • It was not until the next evening that he discovered he had a page from Leviticus stuck to his back.
    • P.53
  • Petal, like a persistent song phrase, like a few stubborn lines of verse memorized in childhood. The needle was stuck.
    • P. 53
  • For the devil had long ago taken a shine to Tert Card, filled him like a cream horn with itch and irritation. His middle initial was X. Face like cottage cheese clawed with a fork.
  • which bloody misbegotten Card takes the liberty of recasting in his own insane tongue. As the bloody bog-rat's just done.
    • P. 58
  • The editorial page played streams of invective across the provincial political scene like a fire hose. Harangues, pitted with epithets. Gammy bird was a hard bite. Looked life right in its shifty, bloodshot eye. A tough little paper. Gave Quoyle an uneasy feeling, the feeling of standing on a playground watching others play games whose rules he didn't know.
    • P. 63
  • We run a car wreck photo every week, whether we have a car wreck or not. That's our golden rule.
  • Nutbeem influenced a little by the lunar cycle. Had a touch of werewolf. At full moon he burst, talked himself dry, took exercise in the form of dancing and fighting at the Starlight Lounge, then slowly fell back to contemplation.
    • P. 75
  • The ocean twitched like a vast cloth spread over snakes.
    • P. 193
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