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Heart Songs and Other Stories

Heart Songs and Other Stories

  • reading group guide
Before she wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx was already producing some of the finest short fiction in the country. Here are her collected stories, including two new works never before anthologized.
These stories reverberate with rural tradition, the rites of nature, and the rituals of small-town life. The country is blue-collar New England; the characters are native families and the dispossessed working class, whose heritage is challenged by the neorural bourgeoisie from the city; and the themes are as elemental as the landscape: revenge, malice, greed, passion. Told with skill and profundity and crafted by a master storyteller, these are lean, tough tales of an extraordinary place and its people.
Choose a format:
  • Scribner | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780020360759 | 
  • March 1995
List Price $15.00
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

On the Antler

Hawkheel's face was as finely wrinkled as grass-dried linen, his thin back bent like a branch weighted with snow. He still spent most of his time in the field and on the streams, sweeter days than when he was that half-wild boy who ran panting up the muddy logging road, smashing branches to mute the receding roar of the school bus. Then he had hated books, had despised everything except the woods.

But in the insomnia of old age he read half the night, the patinated words gliding under his eyes like a river coursing over polished stones: books on wild geese, nymph patterns for brook trout, wolves... see more

Reading Group Guide

Heart Songs and Other Stories
Annie Proulx

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. In “On the Antler” Hawkheel Leverd and Bill Stong play out their childhood rivalry in a series of exchanges involving antique books, food poisoning, and private hunting places. What is at the heart of their disagreement? What leads Hawkheel to destroy the valuable books he purchases from Stong?

2. “Even to the bastard descendants the Stones were predators” (“Stone City”). Discuss the legacy of the Stone family and its connection to Banger and his dog, Lady in How do the Stones continue to wreak havoc on the residents of Chopping County? What role does the fox narrative play in this tale?

3. “Bedrock” explores the relationship between Perley and his second wife, Maureen. How do Maureen and her older brother, Bobhot, enter Perley’s life? How does Perley’s interaction with Maureen as a young girl relate to her mistreatment of him in their marriage?

4. “A Run of Bad Luck” explores the emotional undercurrents between family members about to go hunting. Discuss the relationship between Haylett, and his son, Amando. What does their exchange about the road damages reveal? Later, how does Haylett try to protect Ama see more

About the Author

Annie Proulx
Gus Powell

Annie Proulx

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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