Annie Proulx Al Fresco with the BBC

In September 2008 Annie Proulx and her local songbirds granted an outdoor interview to the BBC's World Book Club. The BBC sent their crew all the way to Laramie, Wyoming to produce a 27-minute discussion of Proulx's best-known works: the short story "Brokeback Mountain," and the Newfoundland-based novel, The Shipping News. (Evidently the WBC does not choose novels based on novelty, going instead for an author's "best-known" works--in February 2009 they podcasted discussions with Toni Morrison on Beloved (1987) and David Guterson on Snow Falling on Cedars (1995), both recorded in London.)

Raptors in the Cliff
World Book Club host Harriett Gilbert sounds thrilled to be in the "wide open" Wyoming landscape, and Proulx sounds genial, hospitable, and relaxed. It's all quite lovely and striking, even to the ears. At Gilbert's prompting, Proulx describes the cottonwood trees by the river, and the pretty colors of the 400-foot limestone cliff on the far side.  Then the author mentions, in the same cheerful knowing voice, that the cliff is "the home for many, many raptors," and we know we're unsafely in Proulx Territory.

Stories that "Fall Out of the Landscape"
Proulx reads from both The Shipping News and "Brokeback Mountain," but the delights of the interview reside in the portrait we get of Annie Proulx, the writer and the lover of privacy. Gilbert reads questions from BBC World Service listeners which lead Proulx to discuss her predeterminate plotting (oh, dear, that means all those grisly tragedies are planned), the cooperativeness of Newfoundlanders, and the forces that led her to sell her house in Gunner's Cove: the strain of traveling 4,000 miles from Wyoming to Newfoundland, the intrusion of tourists arriving in boats at the end of her dock. Proulx is happy to acknowledge the power of weather and geography in her writing, dubbing herself a "geographical determinist" (Minutes 7-8).

Uninvited Flying Book Clubbers
At about Minute 13 Gilbert remarks that the ranch is so far from anywhere as to be safe from tourists, and then there's a buzzing noise on the soundtrack (the cue seems a little too perfect--perhaps the segue was manufactured in the editing room?). Either way, the uninvited aerial book clubber sends Proulx into a flight of retribution fantasy, and she projects a scenario in which the "nosey" pilot gets too close to the beautiful cliff and goes "crash!", chuckling when Gilbert says such an event would make her sorry...well, maybe a little bit sorry.

Maddening Notoriety
In the "Brokeback Mountain" segment Proulx inveighs against the sloppiness of calling the ranch hands "cowboys." She talks about how the movie's popularity both disrupted her life and distorted the story's importance in the collection "Close Range: Wyoming Stories." She rues the necessity of a legal response to keep enthusiasts from adding wishful additions and revisions to her text (shades of J.K. Rowling and her squashing of Harry Potter ancillaries).

Join Future World Book Clubs
You, too, can participate in future WBC broadcasts (no BBC subscription required). Go to this page to learn of future books. You can also send a typed question for the author, or record one on the listed WBC phone number (toll call). The next author in the queue to be interviewed by Gilbert and listeners is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, on the subject of her bestseller Half A Yellow Sun. (Episode will be podcasted April 7, 2009.)

Audio Links:
Downloadable and portable: iTunes WBC link to current episodes and iTunes WBC Annie Proulx Episode link
BBC World Book Club podcast subscription page, with downloading tools
World Book Club Archive (for listening online, but plenty of goodies worth the inconvenience)