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Heart Songs and Other Stories

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  1,508 ratings  ·  93 reviews

Before she wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx was already producing some of the finest short fiction in the country. Here are her collected stories, including two new works never before anthologized.

These stories reverberate with rural tradition, the rites of nature, and the rituals of small-town life. The country is blue-colla

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Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 17th 1995 by Scribner (first published 1988)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Aug 24, 2008 Jeanette "Astute Crabbist" rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jeanette by: Julie
This should be subtitled "Northeastern Rednecks on Parade"! I thought this kind of people only came from the South! She sure knows how to create memorable dysfunctional characters.

These stories take place in rural Vermont among what I guess you'd call hillbillies. Kind of creepy people with long, weird family histories in the area. Some of the stories also involve rich city people who move to the area with glamorous notions of how it's going to be. Before long they find out how wrong they were.
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Jed
I'm dreading the end of these stories. They've been the perfect wintery companion since I got them for Christmas. No one, but no one, crafts a short fiction like Proulx and I wish to heaven they were each lengthy novels that I could enjoy indefinitely.
Christopher Roberts
I have been reading Annie Proulx's work for quite a while in The New Yorker. She has been a rare bright spot in my reading of stories in that publication because she offers a rest from the New Yorker formula of dry, depressing stories about wealthy overeducated neurotics. Proulx writes stories about simple people in rural New England and that is so rare these days that she would be worth reading for that alone.

Unfortunately, I found this collection to be very uneven. There is one story in this
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Sheba
Proulx is fucking brilliant. The first book I read by her was Shipping News and I was blown away at how she, like ee cummings used punctuation or the lack thereof to make words hang like actual things.

I like how well she knows her characters, she is describing a land, a culture, a way of doing things and she does so in a way that you can not only taste it, smell it but you actually get into a mood with each story--it's like you take on the actual mood of the people in the room (in the story).

I t
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Melanie
Proulx's work is so meaty here, each tale travelling the same dark corridor so that you easily forget you are in the short story format.

Poetic, gorgeous language. The characters are flawed, ugly and strikingly original - just the way I like them.

The collection is aptly named for the standout piece, I read that particular tale 3 times and continue to be nourished by the main character's fervor for music & rust.

Enjoyed every beefy bite.
Carita
I'd felt an aversion to Proulx's books ever since I saw Kevin Spacey in the movie version of her "Shipping News". I didn't dislike Kevin Spacey nor the movie, and the book had been highly recommended by a friend; it was just one of those unexplained, unexplored things. Then I picked up 'Heart Songs and Other Stories' at the Salvation Army for 50 cents, and one night I opened it. It was dark and quiet in the room, and in the second paragraph of the first story ("On the Antler") I read this:

"He we
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Jan
This has Annie Proulx's trademark descriptive jewels. She could've used a good hug or some Prozac while writing these stories, though. They tend toward gloomy, defeated themes and dark futures. Not the book to read if you're looking for a cheering lift. Still, there are some good O Henry endings. Overall, worth the read as long as you're feeling emotionally fit.
Kari Kelly
A book of short stories is clearly not for me. It was like watching television with my husband...watch 5 minutes of a show and change channel, watch 5 minutes of a show and change channel! The stories are actually written well, I just can't do the channel surfing in a book.
Pabloslist
BOOK: Magnificent NE USA stories.. Critic: "..bites like hard cider. I'm wild for it. I wish it was three times as long"
Claire S
Proulx is again riveting and brutal. This collection of stories includes some of the human species most terrible realities, including incest and insanity. It also includes the early shapings of her intensely-crafted writing style, which I continue to adore.

The themes include rural life in the US in the late part of the 20th century, including another (in addition to in Postcards) fascinating glimpse at how electricity spread across the country (and its costs) (with molasses); and the grinding n
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Matthew
So from the beginning Annie Proulx has had a talent for cramming distinct details of place into her stories. It's telling that she began in hunting magazines like 'Gray's Sporting Journal', since the flora and fauna are so prevalent in most of her works. And the beauty of writing about an animal you are hunting is that you can go from the beginning when you are searching for the signs and longing for the sight of it to the moment that you tear it apart and look inside of it and cook it and eat i ...more
Cheyenne Blue
I thought I’d read all of Proulx’s short story collections, but this one, first published in 1994, somehow passed me by.

She writes about the outdoors, about country people, about harsh, simple things, like hunting and disappointment and blank cruelty. The stories are all set in New England, in the damp, forested, boggy country. She’s at her best writing about nature, and her simple evocative prose tells it how it is:

"He had let the cows out and they capered in the damp pasture as though the rare
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Ape
2008 bookcrossing journal:

This is a collection of short stories from the fantastic writer Annie Proulx. I had actually read the first story in here before, in a different book of short stories. I think it was a collection by different female writers.

ANYWAY. These are set in the American countryside and depict the rough tough life of self-sufficient men (and a few women), and rural poverty - something that happens over here in the UK as well, although people who dont live in the countryside thin
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Judy Vasseur
2nd story in the book: Stone City
So who is more evil, the Stone family of inbreeders and murders or the townsfolk that tar and feather the entire clan? This story causes me to remember the movie Deliverance. When I first saw the movie many years ago at a younger age, I thought the mountain people were the evil ones. But recently viewing it again I see the intruder weekend canoers as the monsters.

Also interesting to relect on is the notion of bad blood running in families. Proulx explores this co
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Clive Thompson
A series of short and not so short stories all of which take place in Chopping County, New England. The themes and style of each story run so similarly that the book reads as a novel and sometimes it's difficult to remember that it's not a novel. Again the poetic writing but now it's New England and everyone hunts or keeps the local store. I read this book straight after reading Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath and was struck by the fact that unemployment in 'Grapes' meant starvation while in Ann ...more
Michel Dignand
How I love Annie Proulx! In this collection she does her usual trick, observing and reporting on her people, mostly the men. A few mad and sometimes patient women get a look in from time to time, but mostly the book is populated by simple, largely uneducated country men. Favourite stories? 'A Run of Bad Luck', 'Wertrout' (but not the ending which I found uncharacteristically weak) and 'Heart Song'.
She's a gem.
Luisa
Aug 22, 2007 Luisa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: short story enthusiasts
I love short stories, and before she even wrote , Proulx was a master of the short story form. Her style is decidedly masculine, but not in a hoo-rah-sort-of-way. Proulx writes about what she wants to know more about, and having gronw up with many sisters, men and the things they do are her primary source for exploration. No touchy-feely stuff here though. Men build houses, go hunting, take photographs, retire, and find out they are decidedly human in their desires and their failures. My favorit ...more
Angela J Maher
These stories are well crafted, with wonderful characterisation, and fantastic descriptions, but I can't say I really liked them. On the whole they are about unhappy people, most with unhappy relationships, some end oddly, and all made me feel rather gloomy. If they weren't so well written, and original, I would have given it a much lower rating. They are great examples of good writing, but not something to cosy up with and enjoy.
Mary
The title story is masterful - the piece of writing from Annie Proulx that I've found satisfying from beginning to end. I started to read the rest of the collection, but had to stop because they are so unrelentingly grim.

She's an amazingly precise writer - the truth and power of her stories come out of the micro-level intensity of her details and phrasing -- but at the same time, there's something that I don't trust about her. I feel as though she's salivating over the suffering of her characte
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James Barker
I'm not a hunter in spirit so I wasn't sure I'd take to this book. But beyond the brutality of the hunt and the poverty detailed in these richly captured stories of life in Chopping County, New England, is the emotional resonance E. Annie Proulx brings to all her work. These are indeed heart songs, songs of hearts flawed by the struggle for life. The tensions between those who are just surviving- those who are as native to the area as the deer- and the rich, summer part-timers who travel up for ...more
Linda
Collection of short stories depicting sub-human creatures brought to light by the writer's deft overturning of spongy, moss-covered outcroppings to reveal a netherworld of detritus and despair. (Okay--some of these characters have redeeming qualities, but on the whole they live on the underside of civilization and engender squeamishly fascinating glimpses into a humanity gone to seed, or just rotted out.) Rarely is there a satisfying resolution to these tales--and they leave you with stark thoug ...more
Carol
When Proulx was in her 50s (where I am now), she wrote five short stories and focused on the dissolution of North American rural life: farmers, laborers, and ranchers whose livelihood is destroyed both by changes in society and their own pure blind stubbornness. She addresses this collection-- Postcards, Heart Songs (Vermont), The Shipping News (1993 -- Newfoundland), Accordion Crimes (1996) with humor. Living in Connecticut, I can relate to this. It is August and we make every effort to purchas ...more
Jordan Kinsey
Dang it...I forgot to update this. I finished Heart Songs on Monday and have read another book since then.

Anyway...Proulx. Amazing storyteller. Incredibly complex and interesting characters. Always a terrific read.
Rob Walter
Proulx writes wonderful prose - simple in structure and very descriptive. She paces the stories wonderfully, fleshing out some details and leaving others to be filled in by the reader. There is a slight tendency to sentimentality and predictability in the plots, but then short stories always tend to the formulaic because of the danger of wasting precious words on exposition.

The subject matter is all very familiar to readers of Proulx - rural America (particularly New England in this collection),
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Alison
Powerful collection of short stories that definitely top the other work by Proulx I've read so far. Accordion Crimes has nothing on this.
Lou Gaglia
Great writer. Beautiful prose, strong characters, vivid images. Not all of the stories appealed to me, however. This is no fault of the great Annie Proulx. Just my personal taste (or lack of it?).
Judy
It really grabbed me the way she described the scenes and the people. I tried this book because I loved "The Shipping News."
Toreisii
Great rural Americana, although some of the themes were reused in different stories which lessened their effect.
Victor Davis
A very warm, soul-filling collection. I like the dark tales of rural living. My favorites were "Heart Songs," "Stone City," and "Wer-Trout." Her writing is very subdued, delivering powerful emotions and ravaging her characters in simple, subtle verse. My favorite of the stories seem to glow with portentous meaning, as if a monster is swimming about the characters just under the surface, pulling them under as they cling desperately to their failing grip on rationality.
Ronald Wise
All the short stories in this book deal with rural life, often with the appearance of city folk who were either visiting or moving to the country. The people and events were quite disturbing, as though the characters had already resigned themselves to a melancholy existence with an occasional display of spite or act of sexual escape. The descriptions of a wet and cool Northeast scenes brought back some vivid memories of my Northwest upbringing. I know of this anthology from a tribute to Proulx's ...more
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1262010
Also published as E. Annie Proulx
Edna Annie Proulx is an American journalist and author. Her second novel, The Shipping News (1993), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for fiction in 1994. Her short story "Brokeback Mountain" was adapted as an Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe Award-winning major motion picture released in 2005. Brokeback Mountain received massive c
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More about Annie Proulx...
The Shipping News Brokeback Mountain Close Range Accordion Crimes Postcards

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