Brokeback Mountain – the name evokes memories of the critically acclaimed movie from director Ang Lee featuring the late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.
But few remember that Brokeback Mountain was based on a short story of the same name by Pulitzer Prize author Annie Proulx.
Today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports that Proulx has put out a new collection of short stories Fine Just the Way It Is that’s set in Wyoming, a state that has two claims to fame – 1. U.S. veep and George W. Bush’s boss Dick Cheney hails from the state and 2. the setting for Brokeback Mountain.
Here’s an excerpt from the Journal’s interview with Proulx:
WSJ: When you have an idea for a story does it begin with an image, an idea of a conversation, a photograph perhaps or even a geographical area?
Ms. Proulx: The ideas for stories (for me) nearly always come from the geography, but an occasional overheard phrase can start the machinery as well. You can make a story out of almost nothing if you have a mind that is inclined toward stories….
WSJ: What effect did the success of “Brokeback Mountain” have on your writing life, if any?
Ms. Proulx: “Brokeback Mountain” has had little effect on my writing life, but is the source of constant irritation in my private life. There are countless people out there who think the story is open range to explore their fantasies and to correct what they see as an unbearably disappointing story. They constantly send ghastly manuscripts and pornish rewrites of the story to me, expecting me to reply with praise and applause for “fixing” the story. They certainly don’t get the message that if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it. Most of these “fix-it” tales have the character Ennis finding a husky boyfriend and living happily ever after, or discovering the character Jack is not really dead after all, or having the two men’s children meet and marry, etc., etc. Nearly all of these remedial writers are men, and most of them begin, “I’m not gay butâ€¦.” They do not understand the original story, they know nothing of copyright infringementâ€”i.e., that the characters Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar are my intellectual propertyâ€”and, beneath every mangled rewrite is the unspoken assumption that because they are men they can write this story better than a woman can. They have not a clue that the original “Brokeback Mountain” was part of a collection of stories about Wyoming exploring mores and myths. The general impression I get is that they are bouncing off the film, not the story. There’s more, but that is enough, ok?