Brokeback Mountain sort-of Close Reading

yet he is suffused with a sense of pleasure because Jack Twist was in his dream

Holy fuck did I not know what I was in for when I started reading this. And reading this after having finished the whole thing–the fact that for the rest of his life what he’s living for is these dreams when he gets to relive his time on BM… As someone who lives very much in dreams, being that they’re consistently more awesome than my rl, I really, really get this. And the way she writes it — so simple, so matter-of-fact, it just breaks me.

If he does not force his attention on it, it might stoke the day, rewarm that old, cold time on the mountain when they owned the world and nothing seemed wrong.

Aaaahhhhh fuck I’m already crying.

for a small man he carried some weight in the haunch

Little guy with fat arse=bottom. That’s my rationale and I’m sticking to it.

he was farsighted enough to dislike reading anything except Hamley’s saddle catalog

Characterisation. Ennis is not a reading man.

Balls on him size a apples.

Injects foreshadowing hint of coarse sexuality, male virility

“Well, I’m goin a warsh everthing I can reach,” he said, pulling off his boots and jeans (no drawers, no socks, Jack noticed)

Jack is looking; Ennis is unfussed about baring all.

getting up every now and then to piss, firelight throwing a sparkle in the arched stream

Again, as with the dog’s bollocks, gross, but very masculine, natural, sex-adjacent.

Ennis, riding against the wind back to the sheep in the treacherous, drunken light, thought he’d never had such a good time, felt he could paw the white out of the moon.

And this is just heartbreaking. It tells you so much about his childhood, his whole life up to this point, that a supper of beans and whiskey around a campfire with a relative stranger is the best time he’s ever head. It establishes his emotional neediness so clearly and yet so concisely.

Ennis ran full-throttle on all roads whether fence mending or money spending, and he wanted none of it when Jack seized his left hand and brought it to his erect cock. Ennis jerked his hand away as though he’d touched fire, got to his knees, unbuckled his belt, shoved his pants down, hauled Jack onto all fours and, with the help of the clear slick and a little spit, entered him, nothing he’d done before but no instruction manual needed.

So Ennis is very much a top-only kind of dude. The idea is relevant when we see later that Jack is the one who needs the buttsecks. I think all the anal-ysis of the characters in terms of homosexual/bisexual/heterosexual is fundamentally misguided. These men are clearly operating according to the much older dichotomy of active/passive male sexuality, prevalent in macho homoerotic cultures the world over, but practically erased in modern Alphabetist portrayals of them.

Jack’s choked “gun’s goin off,”

Left this (hands-free? I don’t see Ennis as the reach-around type, at least not the first time) anal orgasm out of the movie (too raunchy?), but, again, establishes that Jack gets pleasure from taking it.

Jack butted against him

Butted what against what? 😉

They never talked about the sex, let it happen, at first only in the tent at night, then in the full daylight with the hot sun striking down, and at evening in the fire glow, quick, rough, laughing and snorting, no lack of noises, but saying not a goddamn word except once Ennis said, “I’m not no queer,” and Jack jumped in with “Me neither.

Again, I think the movie downplays the predominance (at least on the surface) of sex–raw, hardcore fucking, in their relationship by leaving this out, and substituting a soppy kiss scene instead. But the fact that their relationship is this way somehow makes the emotional impact more, because you have to infer it all yourself. And just something about these boys boning in the open air, or maybe just the laconic way Annie writes it, is so unsettling and beautiful.

flying in the euphoric, bitter air, looking down on the hawk’s back and the crawling lights of vehicles on the plain below, suspended above ordinary affairs and distant from tame ranch dogs barking in the dark hours.

God this is beautiful.

Joe Aguirre had watched them through his 10×42 binoculars for ten minutes one day, waiting until they’d buttoned up their jeans

The fact that he watched them so long seems to indicate he may have taken some kind of prurient pleasure in it?

He felt about as bad as he ever had and it took a long time for the feeling to wear off.

Once again, the power of understatement

the first sign of life in all that time

As above.

said what he said to his horses and daughters, little darlin.

Again, so much said through so little words. Apparently Annie goes through over 20 drafts and cuts a lot out, and I can believe it. Gotta remember ‘don’t compare your first draft to someone else’s published work’…

And the fact that Alma knows and is against it from the beginning somehow adds to the poignancy of the situation so much more than if she’d been the PC goodwife and just accepted it.

They went off in Jack’s truck, bought a bottle of whiskey and within twenty minutes were in the Motel Siesta jouncing a bed.

Again, straight to boning.

Smell. Scents and stenches show up a lot in Annie’s writing. Very yick, but I guess I’m kind of getting over it. Again, that earthy male sexuality, I guess.

“Shit no,” said Jack, who had been riding more than bulls, not rolling his own.

I like the fact that for Ennis it’s only Jack, but Jack needs his butt blasted on the regular. So many damn slash tropes before slash was even really a thing. No wonder it was popular with fanficcers.

It ain’t her fault.

And yet neither of them ever seen to display a flicker of guilt over cheating on their, as he says, guiltless wives.

After the pie Alma got him off in the kitchen, scraped the plates and said she worried about him and he ought to get married again

Again, just casually throwing in that his ex-wife gives him handjobs (I’m presuming that’s the most likely sex act in this scenario) in the kitchen while his kids and their new father are in the next room. And what follows establishes a) just how deeply he feels about Jack and b) just how much of an angel Ennis is not. And he doesn’t regret laying hands on her after, either. In fact he blames her:

He didn’t try to see his girls for a long time, figuring they would look him up when they got the sense and years to move out from Alma.

These things make it harder to root for these guys and their relationship, but somehow also make it sexier too. It’s just so very complicated, so very human.

Jack had filled out through the shoulders and hams, Ennis stayed as lean as a clothes-pole, stepped around in worn boots, jeans and shirts summer and winter, added a canvas coat in cold weather. A benign growth appeared on his eyelid and gave it a drooping appearance, a broken nose healed crooked.

Again, a gay male fiction or female slash writer would never make their main men ugly. Neither would Hollywood. But Proulx does. From Brokeback Mountain to Call Me By Your Name, I think it’s telling that all the greatest gay love stories (according to pop consensus) were written by heterosexuals.

but never returning to Brokeback

How did I miss that this is clearly about the impossibility of recapturing that idealised idyllic summer.

Jack slid his cold hand between Ennis’s legs, said he was worried about his boy who was, no doubt about it, dyslexic or something

Again, in this section the fact that they’re talking about their kids while groping each other is so WRONG but that wrongness is what makes it stick.

The window looked down on the gravel road stretching south and it occurred to him that for his growing-up years that was the only road Jack knew

I can’t imagine what that kind of isolation, in pre-internet days, did to people.

An ancient magazine photograph of some dark-haired movie star was taped to the wall beside the bed, the skin tone gone magenta.

So, homo from a young age, which seems to be a thing in fiction, but isn’t always in real life.

He pressed his face into the fabric and breathed in slowly through his mouth and nose, hoping for the faintest smoke and mountain sage and salty sweet stink of Jack but there was no real scent, only the memory of it, the imagined power of Brokeback Mountain of which nothing was left but what he held in his hands.

Two things: ‘salty sweet stink’ again, which is just eurgghhh. Do not get this smell thing. We are people, not dogs. If a man has a stink, of whatever saltiness or sweetness, he needs to frickin shower. And that last bit is just breathtakingly good. The language in BM is I think overall a lot more restrained than in some of the other stories.

And he would wake sometimes in grief, sometimes with the old sense of joy and release; the pillow sometimes wet, sometimes the sheets.

Again, the matter-of-fact mingling of sexuality and sentimentality for some reason just does something to me, man. It probably helps I’ve had these dreams, of loved ones departed, and of lovers longed-for, where the realisation that it was a dream, and there’s no way back in, is almost too much to bear; the empty waking world a’most too much to face.

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