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10 thoughts on “Postcards

  1. Cecily Cecily says:

    Why have so few of my GR friends reviewed this brilliant book by such a well known author? Note The first two pages have a rather brutal scene though the details are vague but there's nothing else like that in the rest of the book and everything that follows arises from this incidentThis is Proulx's first novel published a year before the excellent The Shipping News It's eually good but has a very different structure and the language is not as distinctively clipped or telegraphicIt tells the stories of the diverging lives of the Blood family impoverished farmers in Vermont from the mid '40s until the '70s or '80s along with the stories of others involved in their lives The environment is harsh the people tough but the landscapes often beautiful and Proulx's writing switches effortlessly to reflect these contrastsMost of the chapters start with a postcard to or from one of the protagonists Sometimes it explains what's going to happen in the chapter but at other times it's just a side story You only ever see the written side; never the picture You could almost treat the book as a collection of short stories or even read just the postcards and try to cobble it all together though I wouldn't recommend the latter unless you've already read the bookSYNOPSISThe Blood family consists of Mink and Jewell father and mother sons in their 20s at the start Loyal and Dub Marvin and teenage daughter Mernelle Loyal is a devoted intuitive and knowledgeable farmer; Dub has always been slow aimless and reckless and Mernelle is dreamyOn the first page Loyal's girlfriend Billy dies He blames himself and is even sure everyone else will blame him so he hides the body and leaves family and farm It wasn't the idea that he could go anywhere but the idea that he had to go somewhere It remains ambiguous as to how justified his haunted guilt at her death is but it never leaves him And somehow well before the end of the book it's hard to hate Loyal for what he didLoyal spends his life travelling the USA doing a variety of mostly outdoor jobs trapping mining prospecting farming meeting intriguing characters along the way He sends the occasional postcard home and always hankers after a farm and family of his own though his inability to get intimate with women makes the latter impossible He realises The price for getting away No wife no family no children no human comfort in the uotidian unfolding of his life Meanwhile his absence and lack of return address changes the lives of all those he leaves behindNAILSThere is a striking description on the second page her nails glowed with the luminous hardness that marks the newly dead and this lodged in my mind priming me to notice the many many references to nails finger toe claw and metal that followed at least 20 in the first 125 pages then none that I noticed for over 100 pages and just a smattering from there to the end Nails are key for Loyal too when he first met Billy her nails gleamed and years later he still remembers the flash of her nails and how pointed they wereNeatly the final two mentions of nails that I spotted also relate to the dead or dying There's a whole thesis in these nails and a far interesting one than the meaning of postcards Mernelle has a friend who collects them or bears hunted toy ones collected by Mernelle as well as being on a job lot of postcards LANGUAGE and NAMESMost of the chapters are a chunk of narrative about one or characters but at regular intervals there's a short one called What I See These are in the present tense and much stream of consciousness often featuring lush descriptions of an arid landscape or something rather abstract It's a feature of all the chapters that it's not always immediately obvious who it's about which keeps you turning the pages and isn't drawn out to an irritating degreeAs in all the Proulx I've read many of the characters have unusual names Often they are pertinent or oxymoronic or maybe both eg Loyal Blood but others are just bizarre a man called Toot Nipples for example But there are limits even Loyal thinks it odd that a man named his mule after his daughterCHARACTER DEVELOPMENTThis is a great strength of the book so many characters over so many decades and they change a great deal but it feels like a plausible reaction to circumstances except for Dub and I really felt I knew and understood them When Mernelle grows up there was a sureness in her that estranged her from the old child's lifeOPTIMISM PESSIMISM FATEEarly on we're told the Bloods have a knack for doing the wrong thing and that largely proves true Later Ben the amateur astronomer says to Loyal I see the way you throw yourself at trouble Punish yourself with work How you don't get anywhere except a different placeThere are a couple of recurring themes that ought to be depressing and yet the characters are always hopeful of things getting better and some things do so overall it isn't a depressing book Thwarted longing for children and of those who do have them most are painfully estranged Valuable things long saved up for or treasured are lost destroyed or stolenAlthough Proulx isn't crass enough to spell it out they're all striving for The American Dream but most never uite reach it and Loyal in particular wants to do something of value FREEDOM OR BURDEN OF TRAVEL?Loyal doesn't feel he has much of a choice about travelling and is resigned to it In contrast the liberation his mother finds when she learns to drive in her fifties is joyous continuity broke when she drove her stifled youth unfurled like a ribbon and the pleasure of choosing which turns and roads to take is a literal and metaphorical description of her empowerment Driving also gives her a new appreciation of landscape When you'd been driving with your eyes on the road for hours you wanted to let them stretch out to the boundaries of the earth And yet in keeping with the theme of valuable things being lost even this has a sting in its tale OUTSIDERSInitially the Bloods are atavistically tied to their land but as the stories diverge they and others become outsiders Incomers moved into farm houses hoping to fit their lives into the rooms to fit their shoes to the stair treads An incomer was urban in habitat but haunted from childhood by fantasies of wildernessThis family has a habit of disappearing Everyone is gone except me And I'm the end of itIS THERE ONLY ONE WAY TO LOVE; CAN ONE CHANGE?view spoilerThe first is is a uestion Loyal asks himself and it's a slightly troubling one Because of the ongoing trauma of how Billy died if he becomes aroused by a woman he has a panic attack and passes out So he has occasional relationships with men though this is never explicit Assuming he was straight in the first place it's odd he doesn't seem to struggle with this Or maybe he never was straight and perhaps the fact his girlfriend had a masculine name is indicative? hide spoiler


  2. Julie Julie says:

    I thought I had a great idea I saw this on my bookshelf and assumed it was one of those slice of Americana books that would put me in the holiday moodOops Holiday mood? How about Deliverance meets Looking for Mr Goodbar with a side of rural Pulp Fiction? I purchased this book a few months back after falling hard for Proulx's brilliant The Shipping News I have not changed my mind about Annie Proulx's writing but this novel was a horror to readEvery part of this world presumably our world is filled with danger and violence Here one can not carefully place one's foot on any surface without disaster This depiction of 1940s America is one of the bleakest I have ever encounteredThis novel was upsetting to the point of giving me nightmares and I had to uit it before anything resembling redemption occurred This is a dark and hopeless debut novel and I couldn't in good conscience recommend it to anyone


  3. Sheba Sheba says:

    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 thingsI think Postcards was her first book but that she couldn't get it published until Shipping News was out and did so well I think she wrote it in college This makes it even startling to me Postcards is raw and rough and very male But this woman can write men particularly men from the heartland travelers wanderers nomads vagabond sorry Metallica on the brain so that you FEEL themI don't particularly like or love her men but I like watching them walk our big country stem to stern In scope Postcards is uniuely American It's good my friends


  4. Paul Bryant Paul Bryant says:

    It's like every sentence you have to hack out of the rockface it takes forever to read the thing it's like some kind of titanic struggle you have with it but when you finally do finish the damn thing you feel like you've been through some kind of experience Not sure I need another going over by E Annie Proulx but this one was memorable The author Say my namePB Ooof E AnniePow kick bashThe author Say my namePB Cough I already said it E Annie Proulx E ANNIE PROULXThe author Yeah Okay Well don't forget it Kick Oooof Oww


  5. Judy Vasseur Judy Vasseur says:

    Don't come out my farm no with your damn insemnation racket We got rid the Holstins Guess we stick with god local Jersey stock Do it the old fashion way with a BULL—Minkton M BloodIt’s a rich dark often humorous in ways painful epic escapade Annie Proulx has her characters experience all kinds of biblical catastrophes Stuck in a mine explosion with cold water up to the knees so that the feet swell up and eventually the soles of the feet come off when the boots are removed following rescue An enormous splinter of wood shoots into someone’s eye Giant tumbleweed the size of trucks enclose a house so the person has to climb down sheets from a second floor window She enjoys having the men break their pelvis’sthat’s happened than once People are always losing limbs and getting debilitating head injuries Many kill themselves Or they die in strange unlucky ways always surprised when their heart suddenly stops One woman died from blood poisoning after having fallen through some decayed floorboards and gotten scratched with some rusty nails For some reason I don’t find it depressing just fascinating and funny—the way Kafka is hilarious This book follows the life of the Blood family during hard economic times for several decades as farm life is overtaken by second home owners and McDonald's invade the rural life style You might say the family is cursed or it's just life Or it's the Book of Job Or it's hell to pay for a crime that happened in a split second and may even have been an accident It's existential Western Gothic


  6. Marieke Marieke says:

    A hard book not difficult to read but the characters are hardened their lives unforgiving the land stark and mean Bones jut up out of the soil and rock of this book suddenly exposed and horrifying Proulx contrasts well against Kingsolver who is all life growth and healing while in this book Proulx draws the living dead Farmers who have lost everything including limbs A young man driven from home by guilt that wracks his entire life Forty years of wandering the West without love or friendship or rest for the wearyI don't mean to make this book sound horrific; it's a good story She's an amazing writer The flow of narrative is original unpredictable and compelling Most of the chapters begin with an image of a postcard hand written and addressed sent from one character to another The magic of the postcards and of the chapters themselves is that we as readers often don't know who these characters are or what their situation is when we begin reading In this way the beginning of each chapter is almost like the beginning of a book We have to keep reading in order to find out what's going on who these people are Proulx keeps us delving hunting through her landscapes like Loyal with his coyote traps noting each twig and blade of grass We have to trust her to give us the story She doesn't always give it either Some things we will never know But this is a satisfying book in the end It has a flavor all of its ownIt tastes of cracked leather sagebrush smoke windblown dust old bacon grease and motor oil


  7. Dan Dan says:

    Postcards by Annie Proulx won the Pen Faulkner Award in 1993I really enjoyed this novel and so than her famous work ‘The Shipping News’ A highly realistic multi generational American saga rolled into just three hundred pages Although a large part of the book is centered on the family and their farm in the Northeast as Loyal and his brother scatter across the country Proulx vividly weaves numerous places like Moab Florida northern New Mexico and the Badlands into a story that began in Vermont The genius in this book beyond the imagery is how the murder on the first page keeps the story centered on the family as we wait in suspense for the other shoe to drop and the law to catch up 45 stars


  8. Sterlingcindysu Sterlingcindysu says:

    To be honest I picked this book up because I thought I wouldn't like it and could remove it from my TBR Not the case Even though subjects as fossil hunting and uranium mining aren't at the top of my interests those subjects are covered briefly There is a ton of research in this book This is a very dense book and a reader will get from it as much as she puts in Some of the reviews here are almost Cliff Noteish on things I never caught On the other hand the postcards that start each chapter can be light hearted and amusing and not everyone has a terrible life although terrible things happen to each character While this isn't as bleak as As I Lay Dying or Tobacco Road the feel is similar


  9. Brucus Scriptus Brucus Scriptus says:

    Annie Proulx 2009 Postcards London Fourth Estate HarperCollins £79912 340 pagesFinished 6 September 2011 In a recent email to my brother John I wrote ‘Am reading Annie Proulx' book Postcards Just when ya think things can't get worse they do Strangely reassuring that woman's writing is’ At least one knows what to expect Postcards is every bit as awful full of violence and regret as Proulx’ lovely The Shipping News So why does her writing inspire us? Why does it so faithfully describe some aspects of dairy farming even farmer suicide? Perhaps it’s the lack of bitterness Anger and its conseuent spiral of violence is acknowledged a terrible thing But Jewell finally recognises that anger helped her testy husband Mink work the unforgiving hill farm that was always and forever off the map of New Deal rural electrificationThe book that most reminds me of Postcards is Gabriel Garcia Maruez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude I’m the only reader I know who didn’t like 100 Years because it took that long to read making the characters hard to keep straight The books are however similar in that both Proulx and Maruez are capable of creating remarkable characters and life histories in a trice The crime that truncates Loyal and Billy’s elopement is just the archetype for dozens of other troubles which if not rectified by a shotgun placebo may be left dangling in the wind of the reader’s barb wire imaginationCover blurbs extol the book as the best treatment of migrant workers since John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath What could be apt for the nastiest double dip recession US workers have suffered since 1929 39?The story has pockets of happiness Most of the ‘winners’ are folks who refuse to accept their fate or family’s past Matriarch Jewell after Mink is gone learns to drive gets a part time job in a cannery and experiences comforts in a trailer park than she ever did as a farmwife – dreaming of pasting a ‘This Car Climbed Mt Washington’ sticker on her VW Another an acned orphan of 19 advertises in a newspaper for a wife A human interest writer matchmates Mirnelle and him to their general happiness Even Dub Loyal’s younger brother – a dreamer and generally amiable idiot – finds years of success and an interestingly piratical Cuban wife as his helpmate in Miami real estate development Like the millionaire instructor in his matchbook real estate school he refuses to accept his poverty Of course the IRS is attracted to him too but compared to patriarch Mink the husband and wife team are living the high life Will it last?Only a woman could have written this book Any male writer attempting this plot without main character Loyal enduring even haunting guilt and driven inexorably to some legal reckoning – would have been crucified by reviewers – even in a post feminist era that gives writers latitude But Annie Proulx rises above political correctness to create an existential uilt – however reeking of dirty feet and dog fur – of real art Many of the 'real Americas' inhabited by bartenders farmers miners paleontologists mail scammers and secretaries are known intimately by Ms Proulx who was born in 1935 Long may she continue


  10. Linda Linda says:

    The of Proulx I read the of Proulx I want to read In this book she frames the passage of time and place through postcards sent to and from the characters in the novel The protagonist Loyal Blood careens through life trying to flee from or reconcile a youthful evil deed When we meet the man he is a laconic youngster wary and skeptical We watch him evolve into and out of relationships into and out of professions and finally from silent to louacious as his sharp mind begins to wander loosening his tongue Towards the end of the book we see into his soul in a rambling monologue; He pontificates on a collection of hats some of which adorned the heads of long gone movie stars “It’s like he’s Hoot Gibson dead but the hat’s still alive” This could explain Loyal’s own primal error the deed is done but the spirit is still alive and screaming over his head As usual Proulx paints dynamic portraits of every day characters She takes us all the way forcing us to interact with people’s oddities frailties and graces The journey moves from coast to coast exposing the land the communities the commerce and the weather that shapes people’s lives


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  • Paperback
  • 352 pages
  • Postcards
  • Annie Proulx
  • English
  • 14 August 2015
  • 9781841155012

About the Author: Annie Proulx

Also published as E Annie ProulxEdna Annie Proulx is an American journalist and author Her second novel The Shipping News won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for fiction in Her short story Brokeback Mountain was adapted as an Academy Award BAFTA and Golden Globe Award winning major motion picture released in Brokeback Mountain received massive c.