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That Old Ace in the Hole: A Novel Paperback – September 16, 2003
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The New York Observer Proulx is our laureate of landscape, the expansive descriptions of natural phenomena worthy of Barry Lopez or Edward Hoagland. [Her] fiction has become even richer book by book. With this funny and haunting panorama...she has managed to outdo her previous outdoing.
USA Today Annie Proulx's writing is charged with wit -- alive, funny, packed with brilliantly original images.
The Boston Globe [In] That Old Ace in the Hole, Proulx's hardscrabble wit and wisdom are heightened by the force of her language -- her bone-deep feel for its curves and crevices.
About the Author
Annie Proulx is the author of eight books, including the novel The Shipping News and the story collection Close Range. Her many honors include a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and a PEN/Faulkner award. Her story “Brokeback Mountain,” which originally appeared in The New Yorker, was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Her most recent novel is Barkskins. She lives in Seattle.
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I especially like Chapter 8, Pioneer Fronk, which is about one of the main characters ancestors who moved to the pan handle for health reasons. He has a difficult time getting to the town of Wollybucket and winds up on a horse with two names "You Son of a Bitch and Grasshopper." [p82]. The chapter was reminiscent of Larry McMurtry westerns where characters talk about all matter of mayhem and catastrophe with a droll matter of fact voice. Chapter 11, Tater Crouch, is another glorious chapter on the character, and characters, of the west. One of the characters talking about the wind on the panhandle describes the purpose for a hole in the door: "It's a crowbar hold. The wind gets blowin, you stick your crowbar out and let it set a minute, then pull it in. If it's bent, it's dangerous a venture forth." [p 135]
If you are looking for a plot driven novel which you can't put down because you have to find out who does what to whom next, you might want to pass on this. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a delightful character study of the hardy folk who settled the arid pan handle region, dive in.
What keeps me coming back to Annie Proulx' stories is her exquisite description of the world. Here are some examples.
"road alligators cast off from the big semi tires" [p 3]
"greasy hair that held the tradcks of his comb" [p17]
"He gave a crackling laugh like a dead bush in a drag, twigs snapping" [p 130]
"it was hot enough to loosen the bristles on a wild hog." [p 152]
"the sky turned the color of watermelon juice" [p 156]
"There were ticks of rain like insect wings against a lampshade." [p 182]
"the wet heat fell on them like a barber's towel" [p 211]
"road the color of grapefruit pith"[p 223]
If you are looking for a nice book on the people and features of the Texas pan handle, this is an excellent choice. If you are looking to read your first Annie Proulx novel, steer toward The Shipping News".
this is a whole new ball game. one of her friends said, annie, you are a brilliant writer, but you always write grim grim work. i bet....i just bet...it's because you CAN'T write anything light hearted or funny.
annie must have taken the challenge to heart, because this is book is a bright, shiny winner. funny, bright, loving and a joy to read. there a few downers, she just can't help herself, but all in all, this is wonderful. go for it.