The Insomniac Libertarian: “Brokeback Mountain” — PROULX “I wish I’d never …: Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 199, Annie Proulx I feel you sister! INTERVIEWER You sound like someone who’s happiest in the li…
“Brokeback Mountain” — PROULX "I wish I’d never …
December 29, 2014 by BruceMajors
You’ve said that the characters of Jack and Ennis from “Brokeback Mountain” were the first two characters that started to feel “very damn real” to you. Has it happened again since then?
That was true of a number of the characters in Fine Just the Way It Is. But I think it happened with “Brokeback Mountain” because it took me so long to write that story. It took at least six weeks of steady work, which is not my usual pace. So yeah, they got a life of their own. And unfortunately, they got a life of their own for too many other people too.
What do you mean?
I wish I’d never written the story. It’s just been the cause of hassle and problems and irritation since the film came out. Before the film it was all right.
Did people object to the fact that gay characters were in the center of a story about Wyoming?
Oh, yeah. In Wyoming they won’t read it. A large section of the population is still outraged. But that’s not where the problem was. I’m used to that response from people here, who generally do not like the way I write. But the problem has come since the film. So many people have completely misunderstood the story. I think it’s important to leave spaces in a story for readers to fill in from their own experience, but unfortunately the audience that “Brokeback” reached most strongly have powerful fantasy lives. And one of the reasons we keep the gates locked here is that a lot of men have decided that the story should have had a happy ending. They can’t bear the way it ends—they just can’t stand it. So they rewrite the story, including all kinds of boyfriends and new lovers and so forth after Jack is killed. And it just drives me wild. They can’t understand that the story isn’t about Jack and Ennis. It’s about homophobia; it’s about a social situation; it’s about a place and a particular mindset and morality. They just don’t get it. I can’t tell you how many of these things have been sent to me as though they’re expecting me to say, Oh great, if only I’d had the sense to write it that way. And they all begin the same way—I’m not gay, but . . . The implication is that because they’re men they understand much better than I how these people would have behaved. And maybe they do. But that’s not the story I wrote. Those are not their characters. The characters belong to me by law.