[SS] Brokeback Mountain – Annie Proulx (plus a little of something else)

January 16, 2010 § 22 Comments

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First, I was surprised that Brokeback Mountain is a short story. I was always under the impression that it’s this big, long novel, so I was surprised to see how small and thin it was (just 58 pages?!). But anyway, I’m starting to get the hang of liking short stories, and so was hoping that I’d really enjoy this one. In fact, you could probably say that I started the book with very high expectations.

It’s quite difficult not to have expectations, really, considering how much it was publicised when it was made into a movie.

So anyway, there I was, reading the book, expecting to be impressed by the story and the prose. After about 20 pages, I was left wondering why I wasn’t sucked into the story yet. I mean, it’s a short story, so it’s going to be ending real soon. Shouldn’t I be really into it by now?

And then I got to page 44. I don’t usually quote entire paragraphs, especially when they include language I don’t use. But this was it:

“Try this one,” said Jack, ‘and I’ll say it just one time. Tell you what, we could a had a good life together, a fuckin real good life. You wouldn’t do it, Ennis, so what we got now is Brokeback Mountain. Everything built on that. It’s all we got, boy, fuckin all, so I hope you know that if you don’t never know the rest. Count the damn few times we been together in twenty years. Measure the fuckin short leash you keep me on, then ask me about Mexico and then tell me you’ll kill me for needin it and not hardly never gettin it. You got no fuckin idea how bad it gets. I’m not you. I can’t make it on a couple of high-altitude fucks once or twice a year. You’re too much for me, Ennis, you son of a whoreson bitch. I wish I knew how to quit you.”

That’s where I sucked in my breath a little. And that’s the paragraph I spent the next 5 to 10 minutes reading and rereading. At that point, it was like all the things that happened in the previous pages, things that seemed so bland and insignificant when I read them, all came to life. Suddenly I saw stolen glances and hidden passion and forbidden love. It was like, Ka-Pow!

Sometimes I wonder if that’s what short stories are supposed to be like. Just that one paragraph, or that one phrase, to send you flying.

Rating: 4

For: LGBT Challenge, Book-Movie Challenge

*

movie-brokeback-mountain

I started the movie with some reservations. I’ve heard that it is a good movie, and I just didn’t want it to end up like The Virgin Suicides for me. So I was careful. I told myself to just sit back and enjoy the movie for its own.

At first, I couldn’t accept that both Ennis and Jack were such lean looking men. It was my first impression from the book that they were anything but lean and good-looking. Not ugly, but just not so.. movie-star. (I don’t know why I’m complaining about this, seeing that it’s a movie, so of course the actors are movie stars..) Ennis didn’t feel like Ennis, and Jack most definitely didn’t feel like Jack.

But then the scenes started coming. And very soon (say, 10 minutes?) I was hooked. I saw on screen what I saw in my mind’s eye when I was reading the book: the stolen glances, the secret longing. The view of the mountains and the sheep, the camp and the fire, they made phrases from the book just spring out in my head.

I think this is one of the rare cases where the movie helped me visualise the book, and the book enhanced my experience of the movie. The movie did feel a little too long, just slightly over 2 hours, but still beautifully done.

Now, if only all movies adapted from books were like this…

Note: Page 2 is where the ‘something else’ is..

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§ 22 Responses to [SS] Brokeback Mountain – Annie Proulx (plus a little of something else)

  • Trisha says:

    What a great post! I absolutely love the spontaneous feel it has. And of course you make excellent points about book to movie adaptations!

  • Amanda says:

    I think I definitely need to read that short story!

    And I loved the Johnny Depp version of Charlie. So many people dislike it because of the added backstory, but I loved it.

  • Aimee says:

    Fabulous review, hun.

    I think I should read the short story – I feel I’d prefer it to the movie. It wasn’t that I thought it was a BAD movie, it just didn’t seem to float my boat as much as the hype told me it would.

    -Aimee
    http://myflutteringheart.blogspot.com

    Oh and PS. I totes agree with what you wrote in my comments section about late resolutions being more ‘typically real’. Its one resolution I’m sure to keep!

  • Aimee says:

    Oh and UGH I HATED the latest Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I feel like Johnny Depp is Tim Burton’s whore, and he just gets more manic with the characters. Johnny’s Willy Wonka felt over-the-top to me, I much preferred Gene Wilder’s subtler version…he seemed more crazy by being more subtle I feel.

    And it’s the whoe entire reason I’m worried about Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland. Well that, and Tim Burton’s other ‘muse’, Helena Bonham Carter. They better know how to play it, if they know what’s good for them.

  • Susan says:

    I didn’t realize this was a short story either. I don’t think I’d read this but I would like to see the movie. Thanks for your review.

  • mee says:

    I actually watched Brokeback the movie first. It was very memorable I thought. It’s just so different with everything else I watched or read! I read the short story last year, but it was just okay. I rushed through it because I probably found most of it kinda dry like you said at first, and I was reading it when waiting for something at the library.

    I didn’t quite like Memoirs of a Geisha the movie too. It’s probably because everybody talks in accented English and it just bothered me sooooo much. Why don’t they just talk in Japanese, like Letters from Iwo Jima?

    I watched the Freedom Writers Diary last year and found it awesome. I love Hillary Swank. But I don’t think I’m gonna read the book. I watched Persepolis first before reading the book and both were great. And I agree with you on the Color Purple.

  • su says:

    @ Trisha: Thanks! I did just start rambling on and on, and suddenly, I’ve got this super long post.

    @ Amanda: Good to know someone else liked that version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

    @ Aimee: Haha, I was expecting someone to say that they didn’t like that movie. It’s been adapted so many times, someone’s bound to prefer one over the other. I’m actually quite looking forward to Alice. I’m hoping it’ss be up my alley. Thanks for dropping by!

    @ Susan: I wonder why so many of us didn’t know it was a short story. I’ve read some other reviews elsewhere, and most of them were as surprised as I was!

    @ mee: Why does it feel like we like and dislike the same things? =)

    Actually, I didn’t quite like the fact that they used mainly Chinese actors in Memoirs of a Geisha. I mean, surely there must be more than enough capable Japanese actors? Did you like Letters from Iwo Jima? I know I did. =)

  • I didn’t realise it was a short story either. I think I’m going to have to get hold of a copy and then find the DVD. I have been meaning to watch the film anyway. so thanks for a fantastic review to encourage me.

  • su says:

    @ Jackie: Thanks for stopping by. Will be looking forward to your thoughts when you do read the book and watch the movie. =)

  • I have yet to read this tale or the collection of short stories it resides within and really, really must! I have seen the film which made me cry and has done everytime I have rewatched it. I think its all the emotions that both men show that they cannot say, amazing film.

  • su says:

    @ Simon: The men do a very good job in the movie, I agree. And the music is also very very good. I hope you’ll enjoy the short story, when you get around to reading it. Thanks for dropping by.

  • cbjames says:

    I think you and I like short stories for the exact same reason. I find the best ones have a moment when you realize something very profound, an epiphany about the story that’s very exciting to discover.

    And I think they generally make better movies than novels do.

  • jehara says:

    i saw the movie when it came out in theatres and thought it was pretty amazing. i suppose i’m not a huge short story fan and that is what kept me from reading it after i saw the movie. usually if i like a movie based on a book, i will go out and read it. but knowing it was a short story freaked me out i guess. i don’t know what my deal is about short stories.
    anyway, i enjoyed your post. i, too, look forward to Alice in the spring.

  • Rob says:

    Normally I don’t read short stories but this one is exceptional. I remember reading it several years ago and it hit all of my emotions. For some reason, I’m not sure why, I never saw the film.

  • su says:

    @ James: I’m actually only starting to develop a love for short stories, and it’s as you said, there’s this moment in the story when everything just falls into place. And maybe you’re right about shorts making better movies. Could be that novels just have so many themes and things going on that a movie just wouldn’t cut it.

    @ jehara: Not everyone likes short stories. And I agree, they do get a little intimidating sometimes. But it’s worth trying.

    @ Rob: Thanks for dropping by. So glad you enjoyed your read. I do hope you get to watch the movie one day. It’s quite well done.

  • Sakura says:

    I watched the film and thought it beautiful, but haven’t read the story. But your beautiful review’s made me change my mind. I think I’ll have to go and hunt it down. I think it’s that little switch you look for when you read a short story that suddenly illuminates everything.

  • Ken says:

    It’s an amazing short story, isn’t it? =]
    Do you know Taiwan? Actually I’m a Taiwanese, and so is Ang Lee. The director of Brokeback Mountain. He won the best director of 78th Academy Awards. We’re all proud of him.
    I’m a senior high school student by the way.

    • Michelle says:

      Hi Ken, thanks for dropping by.

      Yes, I know Taiwan. =) I’m Asian myself. And it’s no wonder that you should be proud of Ang Lee, he’s directed some very good films throughout the years.

  • Novroz says:

    I kinda have the same thought as you are, I am a bit surprise to read your post. So…brokeback mountain is a short story.

    The quote you took from the book has so many f word, something like that would make me stop reading. Once in a while is fine but not that many.

    Is the movie lived up to the book? I haven’t read the book yet but have seen the movie

    • Michelle says:

      I don’t particularly have a problem with books that have this sort of language, though I don’t personally use it. So the story was alright for me. As for the movie, I think it was quite well done.

  • […] had read this short story before, and wrote about my thoughts HERE (together with my thoughts on the film), but as it is with all things, time changes our […]

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