"A Resolute Man"
by Annie Proulx
Originally published in the March 21, 2016 issue of The New Yorer.
Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker website.

March 21, 2016I’m definitely a fan of Annie Proulx’s work, to the point I’m tempted to try to read her 736-page novel, Barkskins, that is coming out in June. But wait, I have read some of that novel already, when an excerpt of it, “Rough Deeds,” was published in the 2013 Summer Fiction issue (see our thoughts here). “A Resolute Man,” also, is an excerpt from Barkskins.

I look forward to your thoughts below! Are any of you going to take on Barkskins? Any thoughts on Proulx in general?

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By |2016-03-14T12:02:06-04:00March 14th, 2016|Categories: Annie Proulx, New Yorker Fiction|8 Comments


  1. avataram March 18, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Loved the extract. Very funny. Best fiction I’ve read in TNY so far in 2016 – the longish extract appears to make the story seem complete in itself.

  2. Greg March 22, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    It’s refreshing to see Avataram that you enjoyed a novel excerpt…generally, excerpts are not warmly received here…..and I’m curious, do you agree with the tone Proulx took with the daughter’s childhood abuse from her father?

  3. Sean H March 24, 2016 at 1:31 am

    Quickly to Greg, “childhood abuse” is not at all the tone of the piece (or the period). Even in Proulx’s interview over at The New Yorker such contemporary psychology-speak is thoroughly eschewed and the incest and sex-violence of the excerpt are clearly referred to as “farce,” “absurdist,” “seriocomic” and “grimly comic.” There’s a gothy element that helps deflate some of the historical fiction (though Proulx in general sometimes strives too hard for historical exactitude at the expense of good fiction; she needs to lighten up a bit and this is what often keeps her from reaching the heights of Anne Carson or A.S. Byatt; this excerpt also reads a lot like Ron Rash’s Serena set a century earlier).
    As for a more generalist reading, I found the story well-plotted and well-wrought as a whole. There’s always something that takes a moment to get used to in historical fiction, acclimating to the time period and figuring out how much period-appropriate diction is going to be used (or whether that problem will be mostly just elided). The nautical and lineage components didn’t hold my interest as much as the baroque horrorishness and the somewhat Poe-inspired twists and turns with a garnish of Melvile. Proulx is a legitimately literary writer but I think better suited for the short form. This excerpt works quite well as a self-contained piece and ends promptly and dramatically. That said, my appetite is not whetted for the novel as a whole. In fact, this felt like the perfect portion.

  4. Greg March 24, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Good point Sean about the context of the sexual abuse in the story…..and it’s reassuring to learn that you liked the ending too….I thought maybe other readers may have found it too “tidy”……

  5. Ken March 28, 2016 at 2:52 am

    I enjoyed this as a page turner. I agree that there’s something awkward about historical fiction and setting the tone and don’t feel she completely succeeds. I also am a bit miffed at the novel excerpt in TNY’s fiction pages. Altogether this managed to synthesized (above-mentioned) sources pretty well and entertain, yet I also hope for something a bit more innovative, challenging, literary in TNY’s fiction section.

  6. mehbe April 5, 2016 at 4:13 am

    I’m assuming that the whole thing about the small table the captain made will make more sense in the context of the full novel. Here, it seemed to have some significance that was never made clear.

  7. Poor Yorick April 5, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Definitely much Poe to be found here: superbly plotted (maybe too well for contemporary standards), feel not at all close to the characters. However, alone, the fly-swarmed, pineapple made it worth the read.

  8. Greg April 9, 2016 at 12:01 am

    What made the pineapple scene so special for you Yorick?


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