Wednesday, January 25, 2006

book 7: That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx

It was the words "hog farming" that got me. I rarely read the covers of books, but when this one was a leftover at a bookswap, I kept it around, read Doppelgagner's review and decided to bring it on my trip. I'm glad I did. (Though, on my trip, I ran across some other Annie Proulx books while I was thrifting. I read the covers and then didn't want to read the books. Anybody want to change my mind?)

That Old Ace in the Hole is funny. It is very funny. It also manages to be smart, interesting and mild. I loved all the characters except for Bob Dollar, the protaganist. He is spineless and boring, like most 25 year-olds I know, and his descisions about work are drama-less and stubborn. Even so, he moves along in this Texas panhandle town, trying to buy land for a Denver-based hog farmer and taking us to meet the residents who are strange without being (F-)"quirky." I hate quirky. It is just a cover for poor charaterization skills, and usually plot holes too. UGH- but that is another post.

I think my favorite parts of the novel are about Dollar's Uncle Tam. Uncle Tam runs a junk shop and has a collector's passion for plastic jewelery. He works hard and is realistic about life, love and work. Proulx lets Uncle Tam just be there, no speeches, no unnatural demands on my suspension of disbelief. She is good at that. It made me wish I had an Uncle Tam to go estate sale hunting with. Since I do that with my dad and my friends anyway, my desire to be a neice was strange and kind of cool.

Reading this book took me to a place I've never been, will likely never go, and have no attachemnt to otherwise. But I felt like I was there, enjoying a hot evening in a dusty town, watching windmills and eating steak. I felt happy being there through Bob Dollar. I was satisfied when the book ended, and I felt a little smarter, a little more knowledgable about America, when I was done. Hog farming, who knew?

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