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Bird Cloud

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Overview


“Bird Cloud” is the name Annie Proulx gave to 640 acres of Wyoming wetlands and prairie and four-hundred-foot cliffs plunging down to the North Platte River. On the day she first visited, a cloud in the shape of a bird hung in the evening sky. Proulx also saw pelicans, bald eagles, golden eagles, great blue herons, ravens, scores of bluebirds, harriers, kestrels, elk, deer and a dozen antelope. She fell in love with the land, then owned by the Nature Conservancy, and she knew what she wanted to build on it—a ...
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Overview


“Bird Cloud” is the name Annie Proulx gave to 640 acres of Wyoming wetlands and prairie and four-hundred-foot cliffs plunging down to the North Platte River. On the day she first visited, a cloud in the shape of a bird hung in the evening sky. Proulx also saw pelicans, bald eagles, golden eagles, great blue herons, ravens, scores of bluebirds, harriers, kestrels, elk, deer and a dozen antelope. She fell in love with the land, then owned by the Nature Conservancy, and she knew what she wanted to build on it—a house in harmony with her work, her appetites and her character, a library surrounded by bedrooms and a kitchen.

Proulx’s first work of nonfiction in more than twenty years, Bird Cloud is the story of designing and constructing that house—with its solar panels, Japanese soak tub, concrete floor and elk horn handles on kitchen cabinets. It is also an enthralling natural history and archaeology of the region—inhabited for millennia by Ute, Arapaho and Shoshone Indians— and a family history, going back to nineteenth-century Mississippi riverboat captains and Canadian settlers.

Proulx, a writer with extraordinary powers of observation and compassion, here turns her lens on herself. We understand how she came to be living in a house surrounded by wilderness, with shelves for thousands of books and long worktables on which to heap manuscripts, research materials and maps, and how she came to be one of the great American writers of her time. Bird Cloud is magnificent.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Brokeback Mountain portrays her flawed paradise in the majestic, hardscrabble West in this vibrant memoir. Proulx bought a 640-acre nature preserve by the North Platte River in Wyoming and started building her dream house, a project that took years and went hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget. In her bustling account, Proulx salivates over the prospect of a Japanese soak tub, polished concrete floor, solar panels, and luxe furnishings that often turn into pricey engineering fiascoes. The meticulous master builders she dubs the James Gang are the book's heroes. Though the house never quite lives up to its promise, it does inspire the author's engrossing natural history of the locale. Proulx drives cattle off of the overgrazed terrain; finds stone arrowheads; recounts the lore of the Indians, ranchers, and foppish big-game hunters who contested the land; and documents the antics of the eagles, magpies, mountain lions, and other critters who tolerate her presence. Like her fiction, Proulx's memoir flows from a memorable landscape where "the sagebrush seems nearly black and beaten low by the ceaseless wind"; the result is a fine evocation of place that becomes a meditation on the importance of a home, however harsh and evanescent. (Jan.)
Library Journal
In her first work of nonfiction in over 20 years, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Proulx shares her experiences designing and building a house in rural Wyoming. Tony Award-winning actress Joan Allen's exemplary narration conveys not only Proulx's occasional frustration and aggravation at the endeavor but also her quiet wonder at the surrounding natural world and its calming effects on her. The production is professionally produced, with consistent volume and no background noise, and disc-change announcements occur at natural breaks, making thought repetition unnecessary. This charming memoir, with its vignettes of home-building and ownership woes, is a most appealing nonfiction listen, especially for Proulx fans and anyone interested in natural history. [See Major Audio Releases, LJ 12/10; the Scribner hc was recommended "for all builders of the Western dream," LJ 11/15/10.—Ed.]—Laurie Selwyn, formerly with Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780007231997
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate, Limited
  • Publication date: 3/28/2012

Meet the Author


Annie Proulx is the author of eight books, including the novel The Shipping News and the story collection Close Range. Her many honors include a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and a PEN/Faulkner award. Her story “Brokeback Mountain,” which originally appeared in The New Yorker, was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Her most recent book is Fine Just the Way It Is. She lives in Wyoming.

Biography

Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Proulx did not set out to be a writer. She studied history in school, acquiring both her bachelor's and her master's degrees and abandoning her doctorate only in the face of a pessimistic job market. Something of a free spirit, she married and divorced three times and ended up raising three sons and a daughter single-handedly. She settled in rural Vermont, living in a succession of small towns where she worked as a freelance journalist and spent her free time in the great outdoors, hunting, fishing, and canoeing.

Although she wrote prolifically, most of Proulx's early work was nonfiction. She penned articles on weather, farming, and construction, and contracted for a series of rural "how tos" for magazines like Yankee and Organic Gardening. She also founded the Vershire Behind the Times, a monthly newspaper filled with colorful features and vignettes of small-town Vermont life. All this left little time for fiction, but she averaged a couple of stories a year, nearly all of which were accepted for publication.

Prominent credits in two editions of Best American Short Stories led to the publication in 1988 of Heart Songs and Other Stories, a first collection of Proulx's short fiction. Set in blue-collar New England, these "perfectly pitched stories of mysterious revenges and satisfactions" (the Guardian) received rapturous reviews.

With the encouragement of her publisher, Proulx released her first novel in 1992. The story of a fractured New England farm family, Postcards went on to win the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. She scored an even greater success the following year when her darkly comic Newfoundland set piece The Shipping News scooped both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. One year before her 60th birthday, Proulx had become an authentic literary celebrity.

Since then, the author has alternated between short and long fiction, garnering numerous accolades and honors along the way. Giving the lie to the literary adage "write what you know," her curiosity has led her into interesting, unfamiliar territory: Before writing The Shipping News, she made more than seven extended trips to Newfoundland, immersing herself in the culture and speech of its inhabitants; similarly, she weaved staggering amounts of musical arcana into her 1996 novel Accordion Crimes. She is known for her keen powers of observation—passed on, she says, from her mother, an artist and avid naturalist—and for her painstaking research, a holdover from her student days.

In 1994, Proulx left Vermont for the wide open spaces of Wyoming—a move that inspired several memorable short stories, including the O. Henry Award winner "Brokeback Mountain." First published in The New Yorker and included in the 1999 collection Close Range: Wyoming Stories, this tale of a doomed love affair between two Wyoming cowboys captured the public imagination when it was turned into an Oscar-winning 2005 film by director Ang Lee.

Lionized by most critics, Proulx is, nevertheless, not without her detractors. Indeed, her terse prose, eccentric characters, startling descriptions, and stylistic idiosyncrasies (run-on sentences followed by sentence fragments) are not the literary purist's cup of tea. But few writers can match her brilliance at manipulating language, evoking place and landscape, or weaving together an utterly mesmerizing story with style and grace.

Good To Know

Proulx was the first woman to win the prestigious Pen/Faulkner Award.

Proulx fell in love with Newfoundland while she was conducting research for The Shipping News. She now spends part of each year in northern Newfoundland on a small cove adjacent to L'Anse aux Meadows..

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    1. Also Known As:
      Edna Annie Proulx (full name), E. Annie Proulx
    2. Hometown:
      LaBarge, Wyoming
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 22, 1935
    2. Place of Birth:
      Norwich, Connecticut
    1. Education:
      Attended Colby College in the 1950s. B.A., University of Vermont, 1969; M.A., Sir George Williams University, 1973

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 19 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 14, 2011

    What a Disappointment!

    I've read the vast majority of Ms. Proulx's work and can only figure it must have been time to put out another hardback and pay for the house. The contents of this dispirited and disjointed book -- genealogy, bird watching, house building, and archaeology -- are better suited to a blog.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 18, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Nice artistry and plan

    Cross Bill Bryson’s At Home with Jane Kirkpatrick’s Homestead and you’ll have something like Annie Proulx’s memoir, Bird Cloud. The Bird Cloud of the title is a beautiful home in a beautiful location, but the book investigates the whole concept of home and home-building, starting with the many places the author has lived and ending, nicely, with the many migratory homes of birds.

    A similar parallelism continues throughout the book. The author’s quest for her family’s roots, searching through family trees and ancient documents, is mirrored at the end of the book with a search through rocks and stones for the history of her land and the ancestral people who shaped it. Her longing for a wonderful floorplan is paired with an engineer’s longing for room to work. And her quest to find ultimate perfection is proven as flawed as the quest of others to create it.

    Filled with detail about the construction of walls and floors, and balanced with glorious prose describing the wonders of nature’s construction, Bird Cloud felt like it should have been more fun to read. Maybe it just didn't resonate with me—I'm not that keen on the search for perfection. But it is a rich slow read, not entirely satisfying, not entirely frustrating, but definitely interesting.



    Disclosure: Our book club decided to read this book.

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  • Posted September 9, 2011

    DUDD

    You cancelled my order without appropriate explanation foo on you!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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