Annie Proulx, one of America's finest writers, invites us to share her experience in the building of her new home on a rich plot of untouched, unspoilt prairie and her pleasure in uncovering of the layers of American history locked beneath the topsoil. 'Bird Cloud' is the name Annie Proulx gave to 640 acres of Wyoming wetlands and prairie and 400 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 evening sky.
Proulx also saw pelicans, bald eagles, golden eagles, great blue herons, ravens, scores of bluebirds, harriers, kestrels, elk, deer and a dozen antelope.
She knew she had to purchase the land, then owned by the Nature Conservancy, and she knew what she would build on it -- a house in harmony with her work, her appetites and her character -- a library surrounded by bedrooms and a kitchen. Proulx's first non-fiction in more than twenty years, Bird Cloud is the story of building that house -- solar panels, a Japanese soak tub, a concrete floor, elk horn handles on kitchen cabinets -- and an enthralling natural history and archeology of the region, inhabited for millennia by Ute, Arapaho and Shoshone Indians.
It is also a family history, going back to nineteenth century Mississippi river boat captains and Canadian settlers, and an illuminating autobiography.
Proulx, a writer with extraordinary powers of observation and compassion, turns her lens on herself.
We understand how she came to be living in a house surrounded by wilderness, with shelves for thousands of books and long worktables on which to heap manuscripts, research materials and maps, and how she came to be one of the great American writers of her time.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 288 pages, Illustrations
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication Date: 08/05/2007
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780007231980
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Review by P1g5purt
I was terribly disappoined with Bird Cloud. Not with the writing - It's E Annie Proulx, but with the content. I had an image of Proulx as some rough diamond, frontiers woman ( an image that her publishers appear to cultivate? ) so had expected some "shoulders to the wheel" element to the house build. Sadly the progress reporting bears an uncanny resemblance to the disgruntlements of stay at home home-builders with too much money and time on their hands.I was also left un-moved by the genealogy. I suspect it's not a subject that moves her either since the job was farmed out to a professional. In fact, the only sections that come alive for me were the sections on landscape, geography and wildlife.So, paradoxically for a memoir it works best in the places where the author is least present.