Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winner Annie Proulx's That Old Ace in the Hole is told through the eyes of Bob Dollar, a young Denver man trying to make good in a bad world. Dollar is out of college but aimless, when he takes a job with Global Pork Rind - his task to locate big spreads of land in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles that can be purchased by the corporation and converted to hog farms.
Dollar finds himself in a Texas town called Woolybucket, whose idiosyncratic inhabitants have ridden out all manner of seismic shifts in panhandle country. These are tough men and women who witnessed first-hand tornadoes, dust storms, and the demise of the great cattle ranches. Now it's feed lots, hog farms, and ever-expanding drylands.
Dollar settles into LaVon Fronk's old bunkhouse for $50 a month, helps out at Cy Frease's Old Dog Cafe, targets Ace and Tater Crouch's ranch for Global Pork, and learns the hard way how vigorously the old owners will hold on to their land, even though their children want no part of it.
Robust, often bawdy, strikingly original and intimate, That Old Ace in the Hole tracks the vast waves of change that have shaped the American landscape and character over the past century. In Bob Dollar, Proulx has created one of the most irresistible characters in contemporary fiction.
©1993 Annie Proulx (P)2011 Simon & Schuster
"Proulx is our laureate of landscape, the expansive descriptions of natural phenomena worthy of Barry Lopez or Edward Hoagland. [Her] fiction has become even richer book by book. With this funny and haunting panorama... she has managed to outdo her previous outdoing." (The New York Observer)
"Annie Proulx's writing is charged with wit - alive, funny, packed with brilliantly original images." (USA Today)
"[In] That Old Ace in the Hole, Proulx's hardscrabble wit and wisdom are heightened by the force of her language - her bone-deep feel for its curves and crevices." (The Boston Globe)
I love Annie Proulx's work. This novel is less structured than her famous The Shipping News and more like her great short stories. Her wit and sass always amuse me. The underlying story concerns a young man sent to the Texas Panhandle region as a scout for huge hog operations -- who loves the region and develops a connection to its people. Some of the back-stories concern characters who go back to the days of freight wagons, which preceded the railroads in developing the area. I wish more of Annie Proulx's material was available in audiobook form.
superior narration by Tom Stechschulte really brings this tale of the unique panhandle area of Texas to life. His accents are excellent, and the characters literally leap to life with his excellent narration. Proulx is at her usual descriptive, but not wordy best. I found this book riviting.
I just could not ever get into this book and I love Annie Proulx's work, including her short stories and memoir Bird Cloud. But this one just seemed like a creative writing excercise where the author goes through a ton of research into the Panhandle area of Oklahoma and Texas and puts her thoughts on the history, geography, architecture, weather patterns, farming history, and photographic record into the mouths of various extremely oddly named characters. These people serve no function but exposition. They orate the facts Proulx has learned in conducting her extensive research on this region. I would like to look at the old photos her characters describe, and see some of the downtrodden eccentric old towns and settlements, but I just do not want to keep reading this book. Also--I find the narrator's voice and accent ridiculous. He is a huge distraction, something I don't need when the book itself is so hard to latch onto.
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