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Bird Cloud: A Memoir of Place

3.1  ·  Rating details ·  1,327 Ratings  ·  318 Reviews
Part autobiography, part natural history, Bird Cloud is the glorious story of Annie Proulx’s piece of the Wyoming landscape and her home there.

“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 e
ebook, 256 pages
Published January 4th 2011 by Scribner
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Petra X
"Well do I know my own character negatives," she writes, "bossy, impatient, reclusively shy, short-tempered, single-minded." Says Annie Proulx. What she didn't add was that she was downright stupid when it came to checking important details.

The book is about Annie looking for the perfect place to build the home of her dreams, the one she looks forward to living in for the rest of her life. She finds the site in a wild place in Wyoming, far from any town or neighbours with only the cries of eagle
There are some professional actors whose work I totally admire, yet I'd care not a whit to spend two minutes together with them in "the real world" to get to know them. Their art and talent can stay ensconced on the big screen, their real life personae can stay forever cloaked behind their Beverly Hills mansions or Aspen megalithic chalets. After reading "Bird Cloud", Proulx' "memoir" revolving around her acquisition of 640 acres of land in Wyoming and her experiences in building a house on that ...more
Proulx may be a Pulitzer-prize winning fiction writer, but this autobiographical work won't win any prizes from me. First of all, it is boring. Deathly boring. Autobiographies, of course, use the first person a lot, but Proulx writes as if every detail is precious. Every floor tile as she builds her house. Every mistake she made in choosing other houses. Then she launches into the natural settings of her swamp area home with a textbook-like analysis of the lodgepole pines. Proulx is not a nature ...more
Feb 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Annie Proulx's writing and I also love books about the West and meditative works on the natural world. Add these likes with my passion for HGTV and this book seemed like a natural fit for me. Ms Proulx is a wonderful writer but I was not as enthralled with this book as I had expected. I would have liked more information on the process and decisions that led to the design of this massive house. I felt that much of the design for the house was based on snap decisions and not environmentally ...more
Abby Powell
Don't bother reading this book!

I love Annie Proulx's other books and have always enjoyed her writing. When I saw this memoir and it's subject, I thought I might be in for a treat. However, I was met by a long ramble about building a very expensive and particular house in a beautiful area surrounded by nature.

Much of the tone of the book is whining about contractors, architects, etc. all the while going into excruciating detail that quite frankly most people wouldn't care about unless it was the
Aug 14, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mixed feelings about this book, which is NOT a memoir, but a chronicle of Proulx's quest for what she hoped would be her dream home in the Wyoming backcountry, named Bird Cloud. Proulx is a master of prose, and her descriptions of Wyoming nature are lyrical. No argument there. But as noted by other readers, Proulx fails to flesh out the people in her story, especially the brothers who built the home and allowed her survive in a land that would otherwise have overwhelmed her limited practical ski ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Part memoir, part nature journal, part history, and part construction journal, Bird Cloud is, as the Boston Globe sums up, "a strange, disjointed, often beautiful book." The first point many critics commented on was its curious timing given the foreclosure crisis. "There is a whiff of unexamined privilege" throughout, notes the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and most did not disagree. Yet whether in good taste or bad, that wasn't the main point of contention. Reviewers generally agreed that Proulx is ...more
American author Annie Proulx is best known for her 1993 novel, The Shipping News, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, and her 1997 short story, “Brokeback Mountain,” about forbidden cowboy love, which was made into a critically acclaimed movie. Her latest book, a work of non-fiction titled Bird Cloud is subtitled A Memoir, though once the reader really gets into it, he or she wonders if “memoir” is the right word to use.

Most readers associate a memoir with deep personal
Jenny Shank

Annie Proulx tells of her vivid life on a 'Cloud'
Posted Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011 0 Comments Print Share Share Reprints

By Jenny Shank

Special to the Star-Telegram

If there's any writer with a life and mind intriguing enough to merit a memoir, it's Annie Proulx, who didn't publish her first book of fiction until she was in her 50s, then quickly won just about every award available to an American writer. Proulx's geographical-chameleon nature is unusual for a wr
Renee Mcgrath
Sep 11, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've been listening to Annie Proulx's Bird Cloud: A Memoir, on CD (read by the author and Joan Allen). Proulx is the author of the short story which became the movie Brokeback Mountain, which I read recently and enjoyed. I also loved her Shipping News: A Novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award after its publication in 1993. So I guess I had high hopes for her latest work, which sadly disappointed.

The first few chapters of this book provide a cursory background to Proulx's lif
Judith Hannan
The second star in this rating is out of respect for Proulx. This book is such a disappointment from a wonderful author. Using the experience of building a house in Wyoming, Bird Cloud reads not much differently than a high school textbook--part family lineage, part geological survey, part Native American history, and part a dissertation on the characters that hunted, farmed, and stripped Wyoming of its natural attributes. The greatest problem is that Bird Cloud tells no story, or it starts a s ...more
Feb 18, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cultural, memoir
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 fami
Men D.
May 13, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Oh my God she is so tiresome and unlikeable. I have loved Annie Proulx's work. Close Range. Heart Songs. But WTF is this? An old lady complaining that she blew too much money on a ridiculously sited mansion on a remote Wyoming cliff. OF COURSE your stupid expensive Brazilian tile isn't going to be the reddish earth-tone that you want! Call your architect in the middle of the night and complain! Cry me a fucking river!
Alan Mills
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Autobiographical non-fiction, describing the author's attempt to build her dream home on a Section (600+ acres) in Wyoming. She searches for property for the first couple of chapters, falls in love with this plot of land, finds an architect (not local) who designs a dream home, and (after several missteps) finds a local master builder who can build her home.....and the. The problems start.

The bulk of the book is the story of the year between first starting construction and her finally moving inu
Renee Thompson
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In reviewing Annie Proulx’s BIRD CLOUD, I couldn’t decide whether to give it three stars, or four; it wasn’t a five-star read – that, I’ve reserved for BAD DIRT, her collection of fine short stories – but three stars seemed stingy and rude. Besides, I enjoyed it more than that. But to be honest, I was bored on occasion with the discussion of history and archaeology of the region, preferring Proulx’s description of landscape and antics of the birds (she’s an amateur naturalist and an avid and kno ...more
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Annie Proulx's Bird Cloud is a memoir in which she recounts her experience buying property in Wyoming, building a house on the property, and moving in.

Lots of people have bought property, moved, or even built houses. So how exciting can Bird Cloud be? Well, although your mileage may vary, for some reason Proulx's memoir tended to sit just right with me. In all honesty, there are chapters that I skimmed, such as the opening account of her father's career (which involves many moves) and some of th
Feb 27, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Brazilliant Laura and R4 listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pam Lindholm-levy
Mar 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read a couple of reviews of this book criticizing Proulx for not fleshing out some of the people we meet, especially the brothers who built her Wyoming home, Bird Cloud. Yes, much of this book is a chronology of finding and buying the land, then planning and building the house. She writes lyrically about the birds, the animals, the sky, the snow, but not about personalities. I guess that's just her.
As a sometime visitor to Wyoming, I could feel the wind, see the snow coming in sideways, know w
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended for readers of the past and present American western states, this memoir is more freewheeling than conventional biography, lengthily covering subjects she had studied and experienced during the first decade of the twenty-first century, quickly covering her ancestors, and entirely missing her fabulous literary career, though she mentions cataloguing her vast library, storing her heaps of manuscripts, and still writing (truly having the scenic solitude to do so once the worrisome atten ...more
Jul 11, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read this book because I thought it might give me a sense of the land in that part of the country. With a visit to Yellowstone soon, I was expecting more about the land and wildlife and interactions. The best part of the book is near the end when she describes the birds and wildlife, their comings and goings. However, I couldn't help but think that it was just about someone building an extravagant house in an area where nature should be left to itself. There were parts that bored the ...more
Shivangi Patel
The book, Bird Cloud: A Memoir, uses daily life stories to describe the setting, climate, and nature of a place known as Bird Cloud. The author writes from her own experiences, which helps build her ethos as a credible author. She takes us through her journey of building a home. As you read the book, descriptive and vivid imagery helps create a mental image of Bird Cloud. By using tiny details, the author gets her message of hard work and dedication across. She describes things from both the per ...more
Mar 18, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I have loved Proulx's writing, cherished it in fact, for many years. "Bird Cloud" is far and away my least favorite book of hers, and it was such an unpleasant read it has tarnished my fine memories of her other excellent works of fiction. To discover what an arrogant know-it-all she is, and to try to sympathize with her struggles in building a lavish dream home, is horribly difficult. She seems to be aware that she is not a completely likable person, but the person I barely met in this non-memo ...more
May 20, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
a fast read, autobiographical in essence of some author Proulx's more than 20 residences growing up in New England joined with her living in Wyoming and deciding to buy a section of land (from the Nature Conservancy on the north Platte river) and building her own home. So readers are regaled with a house building, way out in the wilds of Wyoming, complete with architect, master builders, incompetent sub-contractors, aides helping her unpack LOTS of books, her taking walks and bird watching. Some ...more
Oct 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written - maybe it is just my love for the west, the wide open spaces, but I love everything about this one. The stories of the animals and birds are so interesting, as are the descriptions of the work on her house and her trips into the backcountry. The descriptions of the eagles loving the wind and being unable to resist the joy of soaring in it really touched me ... I love the wind too. Very recommended.
*A note - Bird Cloud is for sale ... if only I had $3.7 million I could spare!
Kim G
Jan 28, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Annie Proulx is a great writer, but I would not want to have her over for a dinner party.

I'm not allergic to the memoirs of the privileged and entitled, necessarily, and I made it through Proulx's fits over speckles on the floor and disappointing light fixtures with only mild discomfort, but by the time I made it to her snippy take on her superior methods of birdwatching I wanted to launch this book out a window.

It's a bummer, because there are a lot of promising threads in the book, but they'
Feb 10, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was so disappointed in this book. After reading a number of glowing reviews I was so excited to start it. I finally just skipped the second chapter and the detailed outline of Proulx's family tree. Suffice it to say that family trees are only interesting to the family in question. Chapter three seemed promising, but then got bogged down by what I felt was whininess. I sort of skipped ahead to learn why Proulx found the house less than satisfactory--inaccessability at the height of winter. Well ...more
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ms Proulx's writing is quite lyrical and the descriptions of Wyoming and wildlife are lovely. Unfortunately, too much of the book is about her dream house/s and detailed description of building materials, etc. The author starts to come across as rather repugnant actually since she is spending buckets more money than I will ever have in my life on a giant house for one person. It just becomes absurd and distasteful after a while. Can't recommend this.
Jacqueline Masumian
This memoir, the story of building a home in the wilds of Wyoming, seemed to be an unconnected series of journal entries. The house Proulx describes, and the difficult process of getting it built, is very interesting, but she loses the track of the story so many times with side trips to other adventures, other times, that I was unable to find a through line. Rather disappointing.
Jan 08, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Loved "The Shipping News" by the same author. She's wonderful with descriptions. However, this book had too much global warming bullcrap for my taste. Loved the last chapter about the eagles but it wasn't enough to save the entire experience. A quick read of a day for me.
Carey Combe
Mar 05, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: disappointing
Oh dear, had she run out of ideas about what to write? Pure sentimental, boring claptrap.
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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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“Walking on the land or digging in the fine soil I am intensely aware that time quivers slightly, changes occurring in imperceptible and minute ways, accumulating so subtly that they seem not to exist. Yet the tiny shifts in everything--cell replication, the rain of dust motes, lengthening hair, wind-pushed rocks--press inexorably on and on.” 7 likes
“The mountain pine beetle is a tiny creature that chews through a lodgepole’s bark, gouges out a hollow in the wood and lays its eggs. The larvae hatch hungry and feed on the cambium layer, a tree’s most vital part, the annual layer of cells that makes up a growth ring. To prevent drowning in the tree’s sap, the beetle larvae can eject a choking fungus that not only halts the life-giving flow of sap, but stains the wood a grey-blue color.” 1 likes
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