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Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Annie Proulx's That Old Ace in the Hole is told through the eyes of Bob Dollar, a young Denver man trying to make good in a bad world. Dollar is out of college but aimless, when he takes a job with Global Pork Rind -- his task to locate big spreads of land in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles that can be purchased by the corporation and converted to hog farms.
Dollar finds himself in a Texas town called Woolybucket, whose idiosyncratic inhabitants have ridden out all manner of seismic shifts in panhandle country. These are tough men and women who witnessed first hand tornadoes, dust storms, and the demise of the great cattle ranches. Now it's feed lots, hog farms, and ever-expanding drylands.
Dollar settles into LaVon Fronk's old bunkhouse for fifty dollars a month, helps out at Cy Frease's Old Dog Café, targets Ace and Tater Crouch's ranch for Global Pork, and learns the hard way how vigorously the old owners will hold on to their land, even though their children want no part of it.
Robust, often bawdy, strikingly original and intimate, The Old Ace in the Hole tracks the vast waves of change that have shaped the American landscape and the character over the past century. In Bob Dollar, Proulx has created one of the most irresistible characters in contemporary fiction.

Topics: Texas, Pigs, Farming, Cowboys, Bawdy, Small Town, Oklahoma, and Colorado

Published: Scribner on
ISBN: 9781416588924
List price: $11.99
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The book is paced in a style that seems true to its setting: slow and steady. It takes its time to describe the scene and helps you feel the character of the town. I really liked that about the book, even though I thought I wouldn't when I began reading.
Bob Dollar is trying to buy land for hog farms for a big corporation (which is itself a character in the novel) in a small town where folks ('folks' is more appropriate than 'people') are nostalgic about the old ways and the simple ways. He's a good character: has depth and compassion and struggles with the direction of his life. Very likable.

It's been a while since I read [book:The Shipping News], but I see a similarity in it to this book, similar in a way that if you liked the one you'll probably like the other without thinking you're reading the same thing again.
Both books are set in small very rural places in which a 'newcomer' is the protagonist and gets to know (and love) the community and all its eccentric ways. Weather has a place in each book, too.
more
A novel set largely in the Texas/Oklahoma panhandle, this is another winner from Proulx.

Despite what feels like a slightly rushed "Hollywood" ending, this is classic stuff; sharply etched characters set in relief against a wide-open, largely inhospitable landscape.

So many of Proulx's characters struggle with change, and [book: That Old Ace in the Hole] is no exception.

She manages to stuff this book with an interesting history of the Texas Panhandle without bogging down the plot, and hints at the challenges soon to face this region.

more
That Old Ace in the Hole features Bob Dollar, a hapless recent university grad from Denver, Colorado. Armed with a diploma and a desire to work at a position better than clerk at his Uncle Tam's junk shop or a lightbulb inventory manager, Bob more or less aimlessly stumbles into a job scouting out hog farm sites in the Texas Panhandle for a company called Global Pork Rind. Since hog farms are not exactly pleasant to have next door or otherwise upwind, Bob's task is to clandestinely infiltrate a Panhandle community and do his scouting under the radar. That's how Bob finds himself in Woolybucket, Texas crashing for $50 a month in the rundown bunkhouse of the ever-loquacious LaVon Fronk. Bob's sure that scouting out a site for GPR will be a piece of cake, especially considering he's bunking with the town gossip who surely will give him some tidbits about who's looking to sell out of failing, too-dry ranch land. Soon, though, Bob is losing sight of his purpose as he falls into Woolybucket's rhythms and begins to find that, this place, seemingly destined for hog farms and drought, is beginning to feel like the home he never had. Proulx's Woolybucket is full of outsized characters whose parents and grandparents and great grandparents before them have their histories woven inextricably into the Panhandle. In his adventures, Bob finds himself chatting with a quilting circle of ladies who produce one quilt per year depicting a religious scene to be raffled off at the town's Barbwire Festival. He works part time for Cy Frease who opened his restaurant, the Old Dog, because he was sick and tired of "the pukiest shit-fire-and-save-the-matches goddamn grub this side a the devil's table." He listens to LaVon Fronk go on about the history of ranching in the Panhandle in between town gossip. He listens to old-timer Tater Crouch's barely true memories of his cowboying youth. Proulx brings to life a community, a way of life, a landscape that seems to be utterly unique and unfailingly entertaining. Proulx imbues the town with personality and captivating characters who get themselves into some ridiuculous small-town situations, but it never comes off as too quaint or sugary-sweet like some small town stories that seem to try too hard. Rather, it's easy to fall in love with the people who have staked out a tough life in the Panhandle, who have steely strength below their mostly friendly and welcoming exteriors. I was so absorbed in Proulx's small town and so in love with its characters that when the book ended, I was sad to see them go. In case you couldn't tell, I loved That Old Ace in the Hole. It is a story that serious and funny at the same time. The people are real, if exaggerated, and the rip-roaring tales they tell smack of the sort campfire-side story-telling that I've always loved.more
I really enjoyed this book as with all of the other previous books I have read of hers. I sometimes experience racing thoughts. That seems to be why one reviewer disliked Prouix's 'over'detail and the way she bounces between subject's, but that is the exact reason she is one of my favorite authors. I read and take my time, reflecting on how the character's intertwine. Not to mention her stories tend to be set in the midwest or at least farmland, cowboy type stories that come along with all the most individual and interesting character's they meet. Terrific!more
National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner, Annie Proulx masterfully spins the hilarious tale of a young, mediocre businessman - - Bob Dollar working to scout out locations for Global Pork Farm hog operations in the Texas-Oklahoma panhandles. I've been to that country and some of those hog factories are there! (lj)more
Lots of very colorful characters, but not enough plot.more
A hoot. I mean it in a good way.more
Annie Proulx has done another fine job of showing readers the West as it is now. Her stories are a bit absurd at times but the character development is more than worth the absurdity.more
Read all 11 reviews

Reviews

The book is paced in a style that seems true to its setting: slow and steady. It takes its time to describe the scene and helps you feel the character of the town. I really liked that about the book, even though I thought I wouldn't when I began reading.
Bob Dollar is trying to buy land for hog farms for a big corporation (which is itself a character in the novel) in a small town where folks ('folks' is more appropriate than 'people') are nostalgic about the old ways and the simple ways. He's a good character: has depth and compassion and struggles with the direction of his life. Very likable.

It's been a while since I read [book:The Shipping News], but I see a similarity in it to this book, similar in a way that if you liked the one you'll probably like the other without thinking you're reading the same thing again.
Both books are set in small very rural places in which a 'newcomer' is the protagonist and gets to know (and love) the community and all its eccentric ways. Weather has a place in each book, too.
more
A novel set largely in the Texas/Oklahoma panhandle, this is another winner from Proulx.

Despite what feels like a slightly rushed "Hollywood" ending, this is classic stuff; sharply etched characters set in relief against a wide-open, largely inhospitable landscape.

So many of Proulx's characters struggle with change, and [book: That Old Ace in the Hole] is no exception.

She manages to stuff this book with an interesting history of the Texas Panhandle without bogging down the plot, and hints at the challenges soon to face this region.

more
That Old Ace in the Hole features Bob Dollar, a hapless recent university grad from Denver, Colorado. Armed with a diploma and a desire to work at a position better than clerk at his Uncle Tam's junk shop or a lightbulb inventory manager, Bob more or less aimlessly stumbles into a job scouting out hog farm sites in the Texas Panhandle for a company called Global Pork Rind. Since hog farms are not exactly pleasant to have next door or otherwise upwind, Bob's task is to clandestinely infiltrate a Panhandle community and do his scouting under the radar. That's how Bob finds himself in Woolybucket, Texas crashing for $50 a month in the rundown bunkhouse of the ever-loquacious LaVon Fronk. Bob's sure that scouting out a site for GPR will be a piece of cake, especially considering he's bunking with the town gossip who surely will give him some tidbits about who's looking to sell out of failing, too-dry ranch land. Soon, though, Bob is losing sight of his purpose as he falls into Woolybucket's rhythms and begins to find that, this place, seemingly destined for hog farms and drought, is beginning to feel like the home he never had. Proulx's Woolybucket is full of outsized characters whose parents and grandparents and great grandparents before them have their histories woven inextricably into the Panhandle. In his adventures, Bob finds himself chatting with a quilting circle of ladies who produce one quilt per year depicting a religious scene to be raffled off at the town's Barbwire Festival. He works part time for Cy Frease who opened his restaurant, the Old Dog, because he was sick and tired of "the pukiest shit-fire-and-save-the-matches goddamn grub this side a the devil's table." He listens to LaVon Fronk go on about the history of ranching in the Panhandle in between town gossip. He listens to old-timer Tater Crouch's barely true memories of his cowboying youth. Proulx brings to life a community, a way of life, a landscape that seems to be utterly unique and unfailingly entertaining. Proulx imbues the town with personality and captivating characters who get themselves into some ridiuculous small-town situations, but it never comes off as too quaint or sugary-sweet like some small town stories that seem to try too hard. Rather, it's easy to fall in love with the people who have staked out a tough life in the Panhandle, who have steely strength below their mostly friendly and welcoming exteriors. I was so absorbed in Proulx's small town and so in love with its characters that when the book ended, I was sad to see them go. In case you couldn't tell, I loved That Old Ace in the Hole. It is a story that serious and funny at the same time. The people are real, if exaggerated, and the rip-roaring tales they tell smack of the sort campfire-side story-telling that I've always loved.more
I really enjoyed this book as with all of the other previous books I have read of hers. I sometimes experience racing thoughts. That seems to be why one reviewer disliked Prouix's 'over'detail and the way she bounces between subject's, but that is the exact reason she is one of my favorite authors. I read and take my time, reflecting on how the character's intertwine. Not to mention her stories tend to be set in the midwest or at least farmland, cowboy type stories that come along with all the most individual and interesting character's they meet. Terrific!more
National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner, Annie Proulx masterfully spins the hilarious tale of a young, mediocre businessman - - Bob Dollar working to scout out locations for Global Pork Farm hog operations in the Texas-Oklahoma panhandles. I've been to that country and some of those hog factories are there! (lj)more
Lots of very colorful characters, but not enough plot.more
A hoot. I mean it in a good way.more
Annie Proulx has done another fine job of showing readers the West as it is now. Her stories are a bit absurd at times but the character development is more than worth the absurdity.more
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