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Heart Songs and Other Stories

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,618 Ratings  ·  102 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

Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 17th 1995 by Scribner (first published 1988)
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James Barker
Apr 26, 2016 James Barker rated it really liked it
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
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Aug 24, 2008 Jeanette "Astute Crabbist" rated it really liked it
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.
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
Clive Thompson
Jul 13, 2013 Clive Thompson rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 03, 2008 Sheba rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 24, 2012 Jed rated it it was amazing
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.
May 11, 2014 Carita rated it really liked it
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
Oct 24, 2015 Jenntoo rated it really liked it
E. Annie Proulx can write about this paperclip before me and I will put it on my “to-read” list.

A good music pairing to this collection of shorts is the score to Schindler’s List. Or better yet, Winter’s Bone, since its happier tunes can serve to offset seedy, sad side of humanity tales.

The themes are familiar and written in gorgeous ways. One theme is the shifting balance of power and the relationships between those with power and those without. Because just about every story references hunti
Feb 17, 2012 Melanie rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites
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.
Feb 02, 2016 Aly rated it liked it
Not my favorite of Annie Proulx's. To be honest, I think she may work better in long fiction. Her characters' eccentricities become fascinating when played out over time. But then again, Accordion Crimes has some of the structure of a set of short stories, and yet the character vignettes in that felt more whole individually than most of these stories do. I think the problem may be that in Heart Songs, she has envisioned as battleground between locals and tourist newcomers, and with very few exce ...more
Apr 04, 2013 Jan rated it liked it
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.
Sep 04, 2015 Steph rated it it was amazing
Everything about these stories is simply wonderful. These aren't characters; they are people, real people with all the delicious quirks that make them so human.
Kari Kelly
Oct 11, 2012 Kari Kelly rated it did not like it
A book of short stories is clearly not for me. It was like watching television with my 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.
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
Aug 25, 2011 Matthew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: laugh-riots
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
Feb 11, 2012 Cheyenne Blue rated it really liked it
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
Jul 25, 2013 Ape rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
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
Judy Vasseur
Feb 18, 2008 Judy Vasseur rated it it was amazing
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
Michel Dignand
Apr 05, 2015 Michel Dignand rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 22, 2007 Luisa rated it it was amazing
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
Sean Middelkamp
all of these stories were good, and a few of them were exceptional. I especially enjoyed the one that shares the title with the collection, along with A run of Bad Luck, and Stone City. I was tempted to break my rule and give it 5 stars...I'm sure I will after I reread some day. Annie Proulx is one of the best writers I have ever come across.
Angela 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.
Nov 04, 2008 Mary rated it liked it
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
Annie Proux' skill in description catches my imagination and draws me immediately into a time, a place or a person. I read each of these short stories twice, truly involved each time, and I know that I could (and may) read them all again with no less pleasure.
Jan 19, 2009 Linda rated it really liked it
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
Feb 01, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it
Shelves: august-2014, proulx
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
Aug 08, 2014 Jordan Kinsey rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 22, 2013 Rob Walter rated it really liked it
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),
Jul 27, 2015 Alison rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015-read
Powerful collection of short stories that definitely top the other work by Proulx I've read so far. Accordion Crimes has nothing on this.
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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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