Sunday, August 28, 2011
Book Review of Cowboys are my Weakness by Pam Houston
Author Name: Pam Houston
Type of book: Adult, nature, cowboys, western, self discovery, 1990s
Year it was published: 1992
"I've always had this thing about cowboys, maybe because I was born in New Jersey," says the narrator of the title story in this marvelous new collection. Set in the West, and sometimes in Alaska, these twelve tales are about women who are smart and susceptible to love, and men who are wild nad hard to pin down. Our heroines are part daredevil, part philosopher, all acute observers of the nuances of modern romance. They go where their cowboys go, riding rapids and hunting Dall sheep, dancing the two-step at the Stockgrowers' Ball. They meet cowboys who don't look the part-even Zen cowboys who image nuclear war away-and they have staunch friends who give them advice when the going gets rough. These are strong, shrewd, and very funny stories that first get your heart racing, then pierce it with their truths about men and women-together and apart.
Despite the fact that characters are all different, (with two or three exceptions,) the female characters all have the same voice, while almost all of the male characters are best described as cheaters and disrespectful to the women. (At least the "heroes"). The women do all they can to please the male boyfriend characters but it never turns out that way. Yet, oddly enough, the women are not satisfied with their boyfriends. (In Selway, the woman claimed to have fifteen or so marriage proposals but rejected them all.)
Despite the theme of nature, cowboys and gender relationships, I think the writer wrote more for self-discovery than anything else. When reading these stories, I noticed a few peculiar things; in one of the stories a woman becomes married briefly, and after that story, the main female leads mentioned being married and marriage failing in some way. (Before that story, the female was never married.) This will be an interesting analysis, but I'm thinking that ultimately the author was struggling with herself or feelings. (Perhaps as a child she was raised very strictly and had to believe or do certain things.) The last story of the book, "In my next life," there is a possibility that the author realized she might like women instead of men after all.
At least ten stories are in first person narrative, with woman being the main character. The first story, "How to talk to a hunter," is written in a second person narrative, just like "Sometimes you talk about Idaho." In all honesty I could not relate to the characters however.
Pam Houston is a part-time river guide and hunting guide, but not a hunter. A frequent contributor to such magazines as Mirabella and Mademoiselle, she is taking time off from her Ph.D program at the University of Utah to teach creative writing at Denison University in Ohio. (From back of the book flap.)
I have to be honest that I read this book before, but I read it again for sentimental reasons. (Yes, I missed the class I took last semester.) This will be a sad book because it seems like there's not a single good man left, and in all honesty this was not a humorous book. The women let themselves be walked all over and have hopes that if they put up with a guy's bad behavior, then the guys will stay with them. (As a personal example, I had hoped that someone I cared about will be with me if only I gave them all the freedom they desired. In truth that didn't work and now the guy is back in his home country and barely pays attention to me.) I have to admit that a lot of women do it, and it's curious to find out why we relinquish the control and allow them to control when and where.
3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)