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'Brokeback' author says says film is source of 'constant irritation'

Arts Correspondent,Arifa Akbar
Wednesday 17 September 2008 00:00 BST

It was an Oscar-winning film lauded for its sensitive portrayal of two lovelorn cowboys and their illicit passion in America's homophobic Midwest. But despite the success of Brokeback Mountain, starring the late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, the author on whose story it was based has complained that the tale has become "the source of constant irritation in my private life".

Annie Proulx, 73, the Pulitzer prize-winning author whose short story was made into the Hollywood film in 2005, said she had been pestered ever since by "pornish" mail sent by fans offering their interpretations of the story.

When the story was published in 1999, it was praised for its delicate handling of homophobia in the ranching country of Wyoming. But her fans feel she could have gone further in her descriptions of the love shared by the two central characters.

She told The Wall Street Journal: "There are countless people out there who think the story is open range to explore their fantasies and to correct what they see as an unbearably disappointing story. They constantly send ghastly manuscripts and pornish rewrites of the story to me, expecting me to reply with praise and applause for 'fixing' the story. They certainly don't get the message that if you can't fix it, you've got to stand it.

"Brokeback Mountain has had little effect on my writing life, but is the source of constant irritation in my private life."

The film, directed by Ang Lee, received critical acclaim and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning three.

Proulx's story appeared in a collection of short stories called Close Range: Wyoming Stories, which were set in a rural landscape and detailed the often grim lives of the protagonists. "Brokeback Mountain", a 64-page novella, was the most acclaimed story in the collection.

But while Proulx might be seeking distance from her story, she returns to the region in her new collection of nine stories, Fine Just the Way It Is, based on the lives of the women on the ranches. "In a real sense, women on ranches are secondary citizens. But many, if not most, would be furious if you said that out straight, They see themselves as mythic Western women," said Proulx.

She added that this would be her last collection of Wyoming stories because she did not want her writing to become too closely associated with one region.

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