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Bird Cloud: A Memoir Hardcover – Jan 4 2011

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st edition (Jan. 4 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743288807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743288804
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.8 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 422 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #631,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


Bird Cloud shows the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author at her best... Bird Cloud is part personal memoir, part construction adventure, part diary of noble animals, but all of it comes together like the ingredients of a glorious meal. The reader is lucky to be invited to her table.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Proulx’s masterly prose coupled with her obsessive research on history, ecology, and genealogy sustains the reader. . .every nugget she offers up is pure gold.”--O, The Oprah Magazine

“With a scientist’s exactitude, an artist’s attunement to beauty, and a storyteller’s enchantment, Proulx takes us through the building of a home, intimacy with place, and reclamation of the past.”--Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

“Proulx [is] the laureate of the Wyoming outback and the Canadian shore… Her depictions of the Wyoming landscape in all its moods are in keeping with the best of the Western nature-writing tradition, full of celebration and evocation.”—Kirkus (starred review)

About the Author

Annie Proulx is the author of eight books, including the novel The Shipping News and the story collection Close Range. Her many honors include a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and a PEN/Faulkner award. Her story “Brokeback Mountain,” which originally appeared in The New Yorker, was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Her most recent book is Fine Just the Way It Is. She lives in Wyoming.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was disappointed with this book. It strikes me as a mere vanity piece, a tale of the trials and tribulations of a very wealthy woman (the author) building a dream home on a property that most readers could never dream about themselves. The book, a "memoir", may have been dashed off to help defray building expenses. There is no excuse for this kind of indulgent exercise which takes advantage of a previously unsullied reputation as an accomplished, prize-winning author e.g. The Shipping News, Brokeback Mountain. I think "tacky" pretty well sums it up. Annie Proulx (formerly E. Annie Proulx) should have treated her readers with more respect.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed it - both the parts about building a house and the parts about nature.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa4231f6c) out of 5 stars 70 reviews
140 of 147 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9bd5e828) out of 5 stars "The days were too short for complete happiness." Jan. 3 2011
By Michael J. Ettner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It is common for a reader who enters an Annie Proulx novel or short story to find that it grows on you page by page, layer by layer, as her sure carpentry builds a fine and strong effect. That was my experience with the non-fiction "Bird Cloud." If in her best fiction Proulx carpenters untold stories into life, this new work finds Proulx retelling old stories, resurfacing tales of history, geology, geography, climate, biology. Her evident pleasure in doing so means that many readers will be pleased with the telling.

Take note of the book's cover, a photograph well-selected by Proulx herself, for it is a true harbinger of what the 234 pages inside will bring. It is not a mistake that you cannot see the house whose three-year construction (2004-2006) some publicity material and some reviews mistakenly suggest is the main subject of the book. You are right to imagine the sky and the rangeland extending to the horizon hold multitudes.

"Bird Cloud" is not a Wyoming version of "House," Tracy Kidder's 1985 book that meticulously recounted the planning, design and construction of a New England custom home. Proulx offers us no blueprints, no floor plans, no budget details, no additional photos. Yes, she parcels out a few practical "how-to's" and a selection of vignettes (mostly about construction snafus and disappointments), but the house-related material occupies less than half of the book's content.

The building is not where Proulx fixes her emotional energy. Her heart lies elsewhere: in side-tales about her family's genealogy; in stories of the "rapacity and venal grasping" of all too many of Wyoming's founders; in the terrible legacy of insults to the land, its game animals, its Indian inhabitants; in a child-like delight she takes in the "archeological possibilities" of her 640 acres; and in her experience of the raw power of nature at 7000 feet above sea level, where hurricane-force winds and isolation-inducing snowdrifts are routine. The book's emotional apogee is the final, and longest, chapter -- a narrative tracing an arc of 12 months through the lives of the site's abundant bird life. In these pages Proulx, an amateur as a birder but first-rate as a raconteur, unleashes a warm observational humor.

The book is vulnerable to two criticisms. One is that "Bird Cloud" lacks an overarching theme. It hosts lots of little stories but does not have a big story, and readers who demand a pointedly consistent narrative experience may be disappointed. Another criticism is that the book's subtitle -- "a Memoir" -- is misleading. That is true. This is not a "memoir" as that label is understood today, in our era of no-holds-barred confessional outpourings. Anyone expecting Proulx, a famously private author now in her eighth decade, to lay bare the intimacies of her personal diary, to expose her emotional core, or to explain, for example, how her three divorces have shaped the woman she is today, will come away empty-handed. Proulx is one author unlikely to appear on Oprah's couch.

If you see yourself as a potential reader of "Bird Cloud," consider first reading a rare and lengthy interview conducted at her Bird Cloud Ranch, published in the Spring 2009 issue of Paris Review. It is available for free online; just Google the three words, Paris Review Proulx. The interview is a useful companion piece, especially since "Bird Cloud" itself contains surprisingly little material about Proulx's writing habits.

A set of 24 color photos the property appear on the website of photographer Wayne Thom (Google the four words, Wayne Thom Bird Cloud). As of April, 2013, it appears the property is still available for purchase (Google "Bird Cloud Ranch" and Sale).
50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9bd874c8) out of 5 stars Not what I expected Dec 30 2010
By Laura - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I find the writing of Annie Proulx compelling; her characters are real and the settings ring true. This book is primarily her description of the process of building a very expensive custom house on a section in rural Wyoming and an abbreviated account of the history of the setting, the native peoples, and its wildlife. One gets to know something about Annie Proulx as a person by reading this book. It details her aesthetics, her love of the land, her response to frustration, her search for the "perfect home," and her naivete about construction. The tone is somewhat whiny, as the expenses mount up, the architect's vision is not practical, and she discovers that the county actually does not plow the road as far as her gate (she didn't confirm this before she bought the land and built the house.) Some sections read like a narrative of her birdwatching and wildlife spotting journal. If you want to know more about Ms. Proulx or if you do not know anything about the environmental history of Wyoming, you may find this interesting.
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9bc8eb4c) out of 5 stars Disappointed June 13 2011
By LindaSLP - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Having read all of Annie Proulx's previous writings, I was expecting, I had to force myself through Bird Cloud. There were brief "hooks" when she began to describe the geology, the natural beauty, the wildlife, the weather. However, she lost me in the long passages about choosing cabinetry, the angst over flooring, the wish to build yet another house which was not too noisy, the need to catalog all her books, the need for a place that allowed her to plant a garden, the hardship of driving long distances to Whole Foods. I hope her next book dissects unnecessary consumption. I hope she analyzes the need for those with money to build in untouched places. Perhaps she could write a set of directions on how to live lightly and wisely.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9bc81828) out of 5 stars Not up to Proulxian standards! April 4 2011
By Bryan D. Sheedy - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been a fan of Annie Proulx for years ... ever since discovering her with one of her wonderful stories in The New Yorker. I have bought every one of her hardcovers since then, (short of How To Make Apple Cider!), and have enjoyed them, especially her Wyoming stories, since I come from and went to high school and College in Wyoming and worked at Eatons Ranch, out of Sheridan, for many years. Her last two books I was disappointed with: the dark and gloomy. "Accordian Crimes", and now the hopeless "Bird Cloud", which I so looked forward to, I bought it in advance. Here Annie buys land in southeastern Wyoming, without surveying it's year-round weather conditions ... the County doesn't plow her road in the winter, so she's either snowed-in or out! Then she endeavors to build a glitzy, fussy home more suited to the Hamptons than the North Platte, and spends the balance of the book whining about it's cost over-runs, and construction difficulties in the boondocks. Luckily, she's wealthy from her literary output, so she pours hundreds of thousands to tart the place up with hopelessly fussy accutrements and deluxe furnishings, a Japanese soak tub, polished concrete floors she keeps changing the colors of, amid countless architectural mistakes ad nauseum, to where I just didn't care any more. Her main descriptive largesse involves the bird population thereabouts, worrying about the eagles nesting, as well as the neighbors' cattle marching down the creek onto her property. Some of her descriptions are wonderful, and vintage Proulx, but she lost my interest when the basic story (if there even IS one) of a wealthy single woman pissing-away millions of dollars building an inappropriate luxe house in a country more suitable to a nice log-cabin. Now I hear the place is up for sale for $3.7 million. Good luck to her in this market! I hate to think that Annie Proulx, in her eighties, may have her best material behind her.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9bc8c9d8) out of 5 stars An Embarassment Of Riches Feb. 9 2011
By bioboy59 - Published on
Format: Hardcover
She has really stepped into it this time. I guess we expect that someone who has written beautiful stories, that transport our imaginations, yet seem grounded in something essential (The Shipping News, Brokeback Mountain) would somehow be grounded herself. This is far far from the case. A sense of "I deserve it at any cost" runs strongly through the book. Her false environmental ethic is pitifully exposed as she tells the story of building a monstrosity of a house in the middle of nowhere, for one person, with materials trucked in from all corners of the globe. Awkwardly woven into the house chronicle are half-hearted attempts at natural history, geology, archaeology and native American history. All of which left me with the feeling that I was in the clutches of an amateur. I'm not anti-wealth, but I am anti-arrogance, and this book seems quite arrogant to me. Even cashing in on her name in this way to finance the project seems somehow wrong. How many of her readers can relate to a quarter million dollar cost overrun, and the $40,000 it costs to repair the designer concrete floor because it just didn't look right? The final insult to God's good Earth is the discovery that the road to the house is impassible during the long Wyoming winters, so Proulx's mansion becomes instantly transformed into a seasonal cottage. I'm gaging again.