Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Brokeback Mountain - Annie Proulx

Read: December 2008

Told in a rugged, unpretentious voice, Brokeback Mountain is a short story chronicling the forbidden love of two cowboys. Employed to spend a summer herding sheep on a wild mountain in Wyoming, Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar find comradeship, friendship and eventually something more in each other. They are not effeminate men used to talking about their feelings over cocktails but inarticulate, gruff, and bewildered by their mutual and electric attraction. For a few golden months alone on Brokeback Mountain they are free to enjoy each others company and each others bodies without judgement or repercussion.

They never talked about the sex, let it happen, at first only in the tent at night, then in the full daylight with the hot sun striking down, and at evening in the fire glow, quick, rough, laughing and snorting, no lack of noises, but saying not a goddamn word except once Ennis said, "I'm not no queer," and Jack jumped in with "Me neither. A one shot thing. Nobody's business but ours.”

But when the summer ends they drift back to their everyday lives and before long marriage, children, and jobs have come between them. Still they are able to escape for occasional weekends together but it is never really enough. And throughout the rest of their lives Brokeback Mountain remains an unrealisable dream of the people they can never let themselves be. Years tumble away in a sentence or two, time passes, love doesn't.

Brokeback Mountain is an engaging and powerful short story about illicit homosexuality in a macho rural culture. There is something of the Romeo and Juliet in it, something of every doomed love story ever told. And because of its impossibility, and the readiness of each man to submit to accept this impossibility, the writing takes on an almost unbearable air of unspoken regret.

7.5 out of 10 (it is only 50 pages after all!)

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