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THE BROKEBACK BOOK by William R. Handley


From Story to Cultural Phenomenon

edited by William R. Handley

Pub Date: May 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8032-2664-7
Publisher: Bison/Univ. of Nebraska

Brokeback Mountain—film or phenomenon?

Editor Handley (English/Univ. of Southern California; Marriage, Violence and the Nation in the American Literary West, 2002, etc.) culls a selection of articles grappling with the import and impact of Brokeback Mountain, the “gay cowboy” movie that portrayed the doomed relationship between Wyoming ranch hands and, for a time, dominated cultural conversation. The pieces run the gamut from jargon-heavy academic evaluations to personal testimonies, and include an interview with Annie Proulx, whose short story formed the basis for the film. A few points recur: Was Brokeback a gay narrative or a universal love story? How authentically did the filmmakers portray the rough-and-tumble Wyoming milieu? Was the film a watershed moment for the portrayal of gay life on film or a cynically calculated sop to traditional values? Who’s cuter, Heath or Jake? The essays grapple with these questions to varyingly compelling degrees. Readers without a background in gender studies may balk at the more densely academic essays, rife with lit-class lingo like “queering the landscape” and much ado about “paradigms.” For the Brokeback enthusiast, the book offers much to savor, as the pieces are uniformly passionate and chockfull of contextualizing information and analysis, but the general film fan will likely find this all a bit much to take on.

A diverse consideration of a landmark film, but repetitive and hampered by too many ivory-tower harangues.