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Postcards by Annie Proulx


by Annie Proulx

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English (33)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
I do not think that Proulx's choice of a name for her lead character is one lightly arrived upon. His name is Loyal Blood and his first act at the opening of this novel is to draw blood from a girl who he rapes and murders. This is done almost off-stage and while the act itself shapes Loyal and the rest of his life, this is not the story of a murder or a murderer. With such an opening, it is almost impossible to believe that you could develop a feeling of empathy for Loyal, but you do. Proulx knows her characters and because of this, you know them as well.

The disintegration of the Blood family is a sad thing to watch. Each of them is tied so tenuously to the other that they seem to drift in life without ever touching. They are rough and coarse and sometimes mean and unfeeling, but the travails they endure (particularly Loyal) seem over-exacting, cruel and unusual punishments. Loyal never stops paying for his moment of anger that leaves Billy dead, and his punishment includes an inability to ever touch a woman again, separating him from all possibility of redemption. Somehow you know that unlike Job, God is never going to make all this suffering up to him in any way.

What strikes me most about Proulx is that she draws characters that few of us may have ever known in life, but that each of us knows and believes exist. Loyal is real. He is not over the top. He is someone who is sitting in a dive cafeteria right now being avoided by the other patrons because of disdain and just a bit of fear.

This is Annie Proulx's first novel and as such is a remarkable achievement. It is not the equal of [b:The Shipping News|7354|The Shipping News|Annie Proulx|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1386924131s/7354.jpg|310090] but it does have that flavor and appeal. It is well worth the time spent. ( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
It's hard to believe this is a debut novel. Proulx writes with such assurance and mastery that you would think she had been writing for decades. It's not hard to see why this book won the Pen/Faulkner award in 1992.

The Blood family of Vermont has been farming the same small plot of land for generations. They grow a little grain, have an orchard and keep dairy cows. Loyal, the oldest son, is the person who has the knowledge to keep the farm going. But Loyal has to leave the farm after he kills his girlfriend by accident. He hides her body under the stone fence that surrounds the property and takes off in 1944, telling his family that he and Billy, the girlfriend, have decided to pursue their fortunes elsewhere. After that the farm declines. Loyal sends postcards home from wherever he is on a sporadic basis. He is the quintessential loner, moving from job to job and place to place. Sometimes he mines, other times he traps but wherever he goes it seems disaster follows him. His siblings, Dub and Mernelle, also have some hard times but they both find love whereas Loyal is unable to have a relationship. He can't be all that bad though because his dog, Little Girl, loves him with all her heart and he loves her.

Proulx's eye for detail is amazing. Her descriptions of rooms are so vivid I could see them. She describes people as clearly too. Here is her description of Loyal at a point when he is out of work again:
The mirror drew his eyes like a tunnel opening into another world. He had not looked in so long, still thought of himself as a young man, strong arms, the black fine hair and hot blue eyes. His face, he saw had gaunted out. The blue mirror frame enclosed his fixed features. The ruddy liveliness, the quick rage of the eyes had faded. here was the skin of the ascetic whose neck is never marred with sucking kisses, the rigid facial planes of someone who spends time alone, untwisted by the squinting disguises of social life. His eyes did not change when women walked past. It could be, he thought, that spark was finally dead. But did not believe it.

I think I am going have to read Proulx's latest novel, Barkskins, to see if she still has her writing chops. ( )
  gypsysmom | Dec 27, 2016 |
This MAGNIFICENT book is both epic and intimate in its telling of a lifetime on the run and is a must for lovers of southern gothic writers William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy. Proulx interweaves a series of seemingly disjointed episodes from multiple subjective vantage points with a sophisticated (and deliciously ambiguous) symbolic system. The ingenious structure somehow manages to avoid being contrived and the gorgeous yet restrained language is infused with humour and pathos. Whilst it works perfectly as a great yarn, the themes of self-exile and moral decay are reminiscent of Faulkner (and his later acolyte Cormac McCarthy) in his prime. It is stunning that this was a first novel and in my humble opinion has yet to be topped by the author who went on to be celebrated for The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain. ( )
1 vote Adam.Cooper | Aug 18, 2015 |
This was Annie Proulx's first novel, and it was an ambitious undertaking. It is the saga of the Blood family, Vermont dirt farmers for whom good fortune is always elusive. The story begins with an ambiguous sudden death--the reader understands the circumstances, but not the cause--which compels the only real farmer in the family, Loyal, to hide his lover's corpse and "light out for the territory", leaving behind his plans to modernize the farm and finally make it something to be proud of. From his wanderings across the country he sends home postcards, at first pretending that his lover is with him and they are seeking a better life, then later giving just a little information about what he's been up to (trapping, mining, prospecting, searching for dinosaur fossils/tracks), but never giving a return address, and never returning home to see what's happening to the family he left behind. The reader, of course, does know what befalls the rest of the Blood tribe (Mink, Otter, Jewel....you gotta love the names, which inevitably made me think of Snopeses and Bundrens)-- none of it much good. Through it all, we wonder when somebody is going to turn up that body. What the author does about that is one of the best parts of a novel that I found a compelling and worthy recipient of the PEN/Faulkner award. Not for those who are looking for an uplift, but I'm kind of a sucker for these hard-scrabble, down-on-their-luck poor folks in the hands of a fine story-teller.

Review written November 2014 ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Jun 4, 2015 |
Loyal Blood, a Vermont hill farmer, announces that he and his girlfriend, Billie, are leaving immediately to go west. In fact Loyal has just buried Billie under a field wall. For the next forty-four years, as he wanders America's west, Loyal sends postcards to his family back home on the farm, not imagining that anything has changed since the night he left. This, Proulx's first novel, first published in 1994, is harsher than The Shipping News. Following the Blood family fortunes from 1944 to the 1980s, Proulx reflects the lives of a substantial sector of America's rural poor through during the mid-twentieth century.
  Oandthegang | May 26, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Annie Proulxprimary authorall editionscalculated
Willemse, ReginaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
Postcards is the tale of the Blood family, New England farmers who must confront the twentieth century - and their own extinction. As the family slowly disinigrates, its members struggle valiantly against the powerful forces of loneliness and necessity, seeking a sense of home and place forever lost. Loyal Blood, the eldest son, is forced to abandon the farm when he takes his lover's life, thus beginning a quintessentially American odyssey of solitude and adventure. Yearning for love, yet forced by circumstance to be always alone, Loyal comes to symbolize the alienation and frustration behind the American dream. (0-684-80087-X)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 068480087X, Paperback)

Reproduced as graphics that preface narrative sections, the postcards in this novel -- communications between the Blood family and their son Loyal, as well as other personal mail and advertising material -- progressively reveal the insecurity of the rural Bloods in the changing post-war world. Loyal has fled into exile after an accidental killing, but cannot find a haven of rest. The family patriarch, Mink, writes vitriolic letters to local agricultural agents when the real object of his ire is his absent son. Loyal's brother sends off for an artificial arm to replace the one he lost in an accident; his sister answers a mail order ad for a husband. Through the mail, Proulx inventively reveals the inchoate longings of a difficult existence in this winner of the 1993 PEN/Faulkner Award.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:34 -0400)

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Postcards is the story of the Blood family, New England farmers who must confront the twentieth century---and their own extinction. As the family slowly disintegrates, its members struggle valiantly against the powerful forces of loneliness and necessity, seeking a sense of home and place forever lost. Loyal Blood, eldest son, is forced to abandon the farm when he takes his lover's life, thus beginning a quintessentially American odyssey of solitude and adventure. Yearning for love, yet forced by circumstance to be laways alone, Loyal comes to symbolize the alienation and frustration behind the American dream.… (more)

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