“Rough Deeds” by Annie Proulx
In New France (Canada) in the mid 18th Century, Duquet does business with an Englishman to expand his trade. He acquires vast timber holdings in Maine and then has to defend the timber against poachers, including a man named McBogle. Duquet encounters some poachers and kills one, apparently McBogle’s son. Much later, Duquet is captured by McBogle and is brought to a sawmill. The end of the story hints at a gruesome demise for Duquet.
This didn’t seem like a short story to me, but there’s nothing in the magazine that suggests otherwise. It covers a long period of time, although the interesting bits are the encounters between Duquet and McBogle. Was it really necessary to give so much of Duquet’s backstory? Maybe. Especially if this is part of something longer. But in a true short story, probably not.
Edited 6/10/13: As noted in the comments, Proulx says in the Q&A with Annie Proulx that this “story” is taken from the early part of a new novel. I’m sorry I missed that when I first read the story, but for some reason The New Yorker didn’t link to the Q&A from the story itself the way they usually do.
According to the Q&A on the New Yorker website, this is an excerpt from an early part of Proulx’s upcoming novel.
That makes sense. The q&a wasn’t available when I wrote this blog post.
This Annie Proulx story was the only piece I’ve read in the issue. I enjoyed it, partly for the evocation of 18th-century North America, partly for the depiction of the rough deeds of the characters, but mostly for the way Proulx resuscitates antique styles of exposition and dialogue. I don’t have the text with me, or I would cite some examples. The stylizations reminded me of the baroque pasteboard used in Hawthorne’s historical tales.
Thanks for commenting, Jim. I see what you mean. And I’m intrigued by Proulx’s comments that the novel follows the descendants of these characters into the future. That should make for an interesting and expansive story.