Friday, December 23, 2005

Brokeback Mountain the Short Story

Here's the google cache of the New Yorker short story written by Annie Proulx. It's a quick read, not very long at all. In some respects, I think it's better than the movie. It's much more Ennis-oriented, told mostly from his point of view (with a third person narrator). Most of the details of Jack's life as presented in the flick are just not there. There's no wacky Thanksgiving standoff with the father in law, we don't see his seduction by his future wife, or his failed passes at rodeo clowns. While these are some of the best parts of the movie, they spread the story out. Perhaps it would've been better to stick to Ennis only in the film to give it a bit more focus.

The Ennis of the story is a bit different from the film. There's no reference to his taciturn nature - nobody joshes him for suddenly speaking. It makes his occasional sudden bursts of violence a little more striking, I feel. The movie leads you to the interpretation that Ennis is a bit like the Hulk, all repressed emotions that occasionally explode, resulting in a viciously twisted wrist. It works for the movie's understanding of Ennis, but I prefer the character in the story.

The story dances around a bit with respect to the nature of Jack's death. When it's first mentioned in the story, it's called an accident. "Ennis didn’t know about the accident for months until his postcard to Jack saying that November still looked like the first chance came back stamped 'deceased.'" When Ennis calls the widow, she tells him that Jack died changing a tire, at which point the author gives us, "No, he thought, they got him with the tire iron."

Later, Ennis goes to visit the Jack's folks up in Wyoming, and the father tells Ennis that Jack had been planning to bring up another guy to work on the ranch (previously, Jack had been saying that he'd bring up Ennis), which we are to assume meant that Jack had taken up another male lover (something made much more explicit in the film). Once Ennis hears this, Annie Proulx writes, "So now he knew it had been the tire iron."

Which pretty much matches the film's ambiguity. We only know Ennis' interpretation of events.

Finally, I'd like to say something about the names in the story/movie. Ennis. Jack Twist. As in twisted, perverted, bent. Brokeback in a story about gay male sex. There's some sly winking going on here that's silly.

The story ends with the best line from the movie, "if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it", which sentiment and its implications are probably the thing that I like best about both the story and the movie. Anyway, it's a good little story worth the click.

No comments: