The Brokeback Book


The Brokeback Book

From Story to Cultural Phenomenon

Edited by William R. Handley

400 pages
13 illustrations


May 2011


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

An American Western made by a Taiwanese director and filmed in Canada, Brokeback Mountain was a global cultural phenomenon even before it became the highest grossing gay-themed drama in film history. Few films have inspired as much passion and debate, or produced as many contradictory responses, from online homage to late-night parody. In this wide-ranging and incisive collection, writers, journalists, scholars, and ordinary viewers explore the film and Annie Proulx’s original story as well as their ongoing cultural and political significance. The contributors situate Brokeback Mountain in relation to gay civil rights, the cinematic and literary Western, the Chinese value of forbearance, male melodrama, and urban and rural working lives across generations and genders.
The Brokeback Book builds on earlier debates by novelist David Leavitt, critic Daniel Mendelsohn, producer James Schamus, and film reviewer Kenneth Turan with new and noteworthy interpretations of the Brokeback phenomenon, the film, and its legacy. Also appearing in print for the first time is Michael Silverblatt’s interview with Annie Proulx about the story she wrote and the film it became.

Author Bio

William R. Handley is an associate professor of English at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Marriage, Violence, and Nation in the American Literary West and the coeditor, with Nathaniel Lewis, of True West: Authenticity and the American West, available in a Bison Books edition.
Contributors: Martin Aguilera, Calvin Bedient, Colin Carman, Alan Dale, Jon Davies, Chris Freeman, Judith Halberstam, William R. Handley, Gregory Hinton, Andrew Holleran, Alex Hunt, David Leavitt, Mun-Hou Lo, Susan McCabe, Daniel Mendelsohn, James Morrison, Vanessa Osborne, Annie Proulx, James Schamus, Michael Silverblatt, Adam Sonstegard, Noah Tsika, Kenneth Turan, Patricia Nell Warren, and David Weiss.


"For the Brokeback enthusiast, the book offers much to savor, as the pieces are uniformly passionate and chockfull of contextualizing information and analysis."—Kirkus Reviews

"This volume will serve as a primary research tool for not those interested in the film or its broader context."—G. R. Butters Jr., Choice

"The fact that the Brokeback Book evoked so many questions about same-sex representations on-screen and their effects on viewers demonstrates the worth of this volume, whose essays offer considerable merits. The debates are clearly destined to continue for some time to come."—Matthew Hays, Gay & Lesbian Review

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Introduction: The Pasts and Futures of a Story and a Film

      William R. Handley

Part 1. Gay or Universal Story? Initial Debates and Cultural Contexts

1. Men in Love: Is Brokeback Mountain a Gay Film?

      David Leavitt

2. An Affair to Remember

      Daniel Mendelsohn

3. Response to "An Affair to Remember"

      James Schamus

4. The Magic Mountain

      Andrew Holleran

5. Backs Unbroken: Ang Lee, Forbearance, and the Closet

      Mun-Hou Lo

Part 2. Miles to Go and Promises to Keep: Homophobic Culture and Gay Civil Rights

6. Back to the Ranch Ag'in: Brokeback Mountain and Gay Civil Rights

      James Morrison

7. Breaking No Ground: Why Crash Won, Why Brokeback Lost, and How the Academy Chose to Play It Safe

      Kenneth Turan

8. "Jack, I Swear": Some Promises to Gay Culture from Mainstream Hollywood

      Chris Freeman

9. "Better Two Than One": The Shirts from Brokeback Mountain

      Gregory Hinton

10. American Eden: Nature, Homophobic Violence, and the Social Imaginary

      Colin Carman

11. West of the Closet, Fear on the Range

      Alex Hunt

Part 3. Adapting "Brokeback Mountain," Queering the Western

12. Interview between Michael Silverblatt and Annie Proulx

13. In the Shadow of the Tire Iron

      Alan Dale

14. Adapting Annie Proulx's Story to the Mainstream Multiplex

      Adam Sonstegard

15. Not So Lonesome Cowboys: The Queer Western

      Judith Halberstam

Part 4. Public Responses and Cultural Appropriations

16. "One Dies, the Other Doesn't": Brokeback and the Blogosphere

      Noah Tsika

17. Making Sense of the Brokeback Paraphenomenon

      David Weiss

18. Alberta, Authenticity, and Queer Erasure

      Jon Davies

Part 5. Scenes of Work and Experience in the Rural West

19. Real Gay Cowboys and Brokeback Mountain

      Patricia Nell Warren

20. Marx on the Mountain: Pleasure and the Laboring Body

      Vanessa Osborne

21. Personal Borders

      Martin Aguilera

Part 6. Sympathy, Melodrama, and Passion

22. Mother Twist: Brokeback Mountain and Male Melodrama

      Susan McCabe

23. Passion and Sympathy in Brokeback Mountain

      Calvin Bedient

Selected Brokeback Bibliography

Works Cited


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