Close Range by Annie Proulx

by Jan 14, 2019Queer Syllabus

The Queer Syllabus is a joint project from The Rumpus and Foglifter Press that allows writers to nominate works for a new canon of queer literature. When we identify our roots, when we point to the work that shaped us as writers and as people, we demonstrate that our stories are timeless, essential, and important—and so are we. The Queer Syllabus is edited by Wesley O. Cohen and Marisa Siegel.


Annie Proulx is one of the best writers on America’s oft-forgotten places, hands down. And, Close Range, her collection of shorts set in the Wyoming outback, is relentless in the depiction of how landscape informs inhabitant. The most renown story in the collection, “Brokeback Mountain,” is simply vast, capturing not only the modern west with its dusty color and nuance, but also the indefinable and immutable power of love.

Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar cross paths on a temp job, herding sheep in the solitary Wyoming mountains. The two share a tent one cold night in the camp and unlock a passion that changes their lives forever. After several years apart, the two men meet again and discover their feelings for one another haven’t ebbed. Jack proposes the two leave everything to make a life together, but Ennis is afraid of the disclosure this would demand and its consequences in the unforgiving Wyoming societal landscape. What’s more, both are now married—Jack to Lureen and Ennis to Alma. The two men continue to meet through the years, never satisfied with their fleeting moments of happiness, only to return to the sham marriages, the “normal” lives, they elected.

We’ve seen stories like this before, the epic tale of true lovers mired in circumstance.  Romeo and Juliet were damned for their namesake 500 years ago. Since, we’ve had countless stories where the latest societal norms obfuscate “true” love. Victorian life condemned coupling that mingled the classes, as seen by the directive criticism made in Pygmalion. In the last fifty years, we’ve witnessed formerly taboo interracial love become more and more normalized in literature, as well. In the ’90s, the coming-of-age decade of the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, queers were getting their turn.

Almost more evocative than the gorgeous restrained language of “Brokeback Mountain” is its frank, passionate argument against the notion of forcing homosexuals into heterosexual, “normal” marriages, which results not in strengthening the institution of marriage any more than banning same-sex marriage does. Instead, the story purports that love transcends institution, law, or definition. If love is denied, even for supposedly pious reasons, many more will suffer, including the innocent. This is what most moves me about this story. It is not merely the progressive coastal-city folks that champion compassionate, generous love. We all do. It is a matter of listening to this impulse in lieu of historical societal norms—embedded much like dirt in the folds of dry, weathered skin—and not feeling shame for it. That’s a challenging task, but Proulx knows it’s worth working for.

Queers don’t only live in San Francisco and New York and Los Angeles. And, guess what? They don’t all want to. They desire to live where they feel home, and that may be the vast plains of the Dust Bowl or the blanketed forest of Appalachia. They need their stories, too. And, in some ways, these stories are more compelling in their complexities and circumstances because they are not often explored in literature. We all have something to learn.

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Wow! We had the best time at this past Sunday's reading with the San Francisco Public Library Thank you so much to our fantastic readers—@emo.ocean (Lio Min), @real_james_cagney, @charliejaneanders, and Lydia Elias—for sharing their incredible writing and starting a warm dialogue on the importance of queer spaces.We'd also like to give a huge shoutout to the amazing folks who helped make our event as accessible as possible! Thank you to our ASL interpreters Heidi Woelbling and Benny Llamas, and to our live-captioner Jen Schuck. We're so grateful for your hard work!Keep an eye out for a recording of this event on the SFPL Youtube page! We'll announce when it's ready. Until then, please go follow and support these writers and their work!Image Description: A screenshot of a Zoom room with Lio Min, James Cagney, Lydia Elias, and Charlie Jane Anders. They are all smiling and listening to each other. There is some closed captioning towards the bottom, that says "I'm really struck by how much vulnerability you all shared. As a writer, I'm curious how you know when you're ready to put a story to the page?" End description. ... See MoreSee Less
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Our virtual reading with the San Francisco Public Library is tomorrow! Join us at 2PM PT for Generational Treasures: An Afternoon of Queer and Trans Storytelling.This fantastic event will feature James Cagney, Lio Min, Charlie Jane Anders, and Lydia Elias! RSVP here: is excited to collaborate with @sfpubliclibrary for Generational Treasures: An Afternoon of Queer and Trans Storytelling! Join us on Sunday, September 25th at 2PM PT for a virtual reading with @charliejaneanders, @emo.ocean, @real_james_cagney, Lydia Elias. In mainstream society, when we hear the word "generations" we may immediately presume biological progeniture. In the Queer/trans community, however, generations can refer to chosen family, drag mothers, drag dads, ball houses, aesthetic legacies, just to name a few. In either context, generations suggest an era. Foglifter has invited four writers—Charlie Jane Anders, James Cagney, Lydia Elias, and Lio Min—who span generations to illustrate their "era" and the power of queer/trans literature. Live-captioning and ASL interpretation will be provided. RSVP here: you then! Image Description: This is an invitation for the reading, “Generational Treasures: An Afternoon of Queer and Trans Storytelling,” presented by the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center & Foglifter Journal and Press. This free and virtual reading will take place on Sunday, September 25th at 2PM PT. The photos of James Cagney, Lio Min, Charlie Jane Anders, and Lydia Elias are in the middle of the graphic. The SFPL and Foglifter logos are on the bottom. This background has a colorful gradient of pastel hues and various shapes and swirls, with a square containing all of the text and photos in the middle. ... See MoreSee Less
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There's just ONE WEEK until IT CAME FROM THE CLOSET is available wherever books are sold!!! Have you ordered your copy yet? @joevallese @homohorror

WWS Around Town: This Saturday join this workshop with traci kato-kiriyama (@traciakemi) at @BBLitArts from 12pm-4pm.

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