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That Old Ace in the Hole

That Old Ace in the Hole

  • reading group guide
From Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Annie Proulx comes That Old Ace in the Hole, an exhilarating story brimming with language, history, landscape, music, and love.
Bob Dollar is a young man from Denver trying to make good in a bad world. Out of college and aimless, Dollar takes a job with Global Pork Rind, scouting out big spreads of land that can be converted to hog farms. Soon he's holed up in a two-bit Texas town called Woolybucket, where he settles into LaVon Fronk's old bunkhouse for fifty dollars a month, helps out at Cy Frease's Old Dog Café, and learns the hard way how vigorously the old Texas ranch owners will hold on to their land, even when their children want no part of it.
Robust, often bawdy, strikingly original, That Old Ace in the Hole traces the waves of change that have shaped the American West over the past century -- and in Bob Dollar, Proulx has created one of the most irrepressible characters in contemporary fiction.
  • Scribner | 
  • 384 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743242486 | 
  • September 2003
List Price $21.00

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Global Pork Rind

In late March Bob Dollar, a young, curly-headed man of twenty-five with the broad face of a cat, pale innocent eyes fringed with sooty lashes, drove east along Texas State Highway 15 in the panhandle, down from Denver the day before, over the Raton Pass and through the dead volcano country of northeast New Mexico to the Oklahoma pistol barrel, then a wrong turn north and wasted hours before he regained the way. It was a roaring spring morning with green in the sky, the air spiced with sand sagebrush and aromatic sumac. NPR faded from the radio in a string of announcements of corporate supporters, replaced by a... see more

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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for That Old Ace in the Hole
1) What techniques does the author use in the first sentence of this novel to bring the rich world of the Panhandle alive? Similarly, how do the vivid, meticulous descriptions that characterize the first chapter acquaint us not only with Bob Dollar, but with the complex and often contradictory images that dot the Texas landscape?
2) Bob Dollar describes the Panhandle by saying, "it seemed he was not so much in a place as confronting the raw material of human use." How does this quote, which comes early on in the story, set the stage for the struggle that happens between the people of Woolybucket, and the Hog industry? How does the Panhandle give Bob the impression that it is not a place, or a home, but a landscape made for human consumption?
3) Martin Merton Fronk, Cy Frease, Rope Butt, Tater Crouch. These are just a few examples of the sometimes humorous and always original names Proulx gives to the characters who inhabit That Old Ace in the Hole. How much importance should we, as the reader, give to these names? In what ways does the author use names, not only to highlight specific aspects of characters' personalities, but to show where people are coming from and where the plot might be going?
4) Is this a story about small town history and interpersonal dynamics between country folk? Is it a fictionalized account of the dangers of industrializing farmland? Or is it about the constant and ine see more

About the Author

Annie Proulx
Gus Powell

Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx is the author of eight books, including the novel The Shipping News and the story collection Close Range. Her many honors include a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and a PEN/Faulkner award. Her story “Brokeback Mountain,” which originally appeared in The New Yorker, was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Her most recent book is Fine Just the Way It Is. She lives in Wyoming.

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