The Shipping News

The Shipping News

by Annie Proulx

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780671510053
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 06/09/1994
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 126,034
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: 730L (what's this?)

About the Author

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 novel is Barkskins. She lives in Seattle.

Hometown:

LaBarge, Wyoming

Date of Birth:

August 22, 1935

Place of Birth:

Norwich, Connecticut

Education:

Attended Colby College in the 1950s. B.A., University of Vermont, 1969; M.A., Sir George Williams University, 1973

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Quoyle

Quoyle: A coil of rope.

"A Flemish flake is a spiral coil of one layer only. It is made on deck, so that it may be walked on if necessary."

THE ASHLEY BOOK OF KNOTS

Here is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate towns.

Hive-spangled, gut roaring with gas and cramp, he survived childhood; at the state university, hand clapped over his chin, he camouflaged torment with smiles and silence. Stumbled through his twenties and into his thirties learning to separate his feelings from his life, counting on nothing. He ate prodigiously, liked a ham knuckle, buttered spuds.

His jobs: distributor of vending machine candy, all-night clerk in a convenience store, a third-rate newspaperman. At thirty-six, bereft, brimming with grief and thwarted love, Quoyle steered away to Newfoundland, the rock that had generated his ancestors, a place he had never been nor thought to go.

A watery place. And Quoyle feared water, could not swim. Again and again the father had broken his clenched grip and thrown him into pools, brooks, lakes and surf. Quoyle knew the flavor of brack and waterweed.

From this youngest son's failure to dog-paddle the father saw other failures multiply like an explosion of virulent cells — failure to speak clearly; failure to sit up straight; failure to get up in the morning; failure in attitude; failure in ambition and ability; indeed, in everything. His own failure.

Quoyle shambled, a head taller than any child around him, was soft. He knew it. "Ah, you lout," said the father. But no pygmy himself. And brother Dick, the father's favorite, pretended to throw up when Quoyle came into a room, hissed "Lardass, Snotface, Ugly Pig, Warthog, Stupid, Stinkbomb, Fart-tub, Greasebag," pummeled and kicked until Quoyle curled, hands over head, sniveling, on the linoleum. All stemmed from Quoyle's chief failure, a failure of normal appearance.

A great damp loaf of a body. At six he weighed eighty pounds. At sixteen he was buried under a casement of flesh. Head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair ruched back. Features as bunched as kissed fingertips. Eyes the color of plastic. The monstrous chin, a freakish shelf jutting from the lower face.

Some anomalous gene had fired up at the moment of his begetting as a single spark sometimes leaps from banked coals, had given him a giant's chin. As a child he invented stratagems to deflect stares; a smile, downcast gaze, the right hand darting up to cover the chin.

His earliest sense of self was as a distant figure: there in the foreground was his family; here, at the limit of the far view, was he. Until he was fourteen he cherished the idea that he had been given to the wrong family, that somewhere his real people, saddled with the changeling of the Quoyles, longed for him. Then, foraging in a box of excursion momentoes, he found photographs of his father beside brothers and sisters at a ship's rail. A girl, somewhat apart from the others, looked toward the sea, eyes squinted, as though she could see the port of destination a thousand miles south. Quoyle recognized himself in their hair, their legs and arms. That sly-looking lump in the shrunken sweater, hand at his crotch, his father. On the back, scribbled in blue pencil, "Leaving Home, 1946."

At the university he took courses he couldn't understand, humped back and forth without speaking to anyone, went home for weekends of excoriation. At last he dropped out of school and looked for a job, kept his hand over his chin.

Nothing was clear to lonesome Quoyle. His thoughts churned like the amorphous thing that ancient sailors, drifting into arctic half-light, called the Sea Lung; a heaving sludge of ice under fog where air blurred into water, where liquid was solid, where solids dissolved, where the sky froze and light and dark muddled.

He fell into newspapering by dawdling over greasy saucisson and a piece of bread. The bread was good, made without yeast, risen on its own fermenting flesh and baked in Partridge's outdoor oven. Partridge's yard smelled of burnt cornmeal, grass clippings, bread steam.

The saucisson, the bread, the wine, Partridge's talk. For these things he missed a chance at a job that might have put his mouth to bureaucracy's taut breast. His father, self-hauled to the pinnacle of produce manager for a supermarket chain, preached a sermon illustrated with his own history — "I had to wheel barrows of sand for the stonemason when I came here." And so forth. The father admired the mysteries of business — men signing papers shielded by their left arms, meetings behind opaque glass, locked briefcases.

But Partridge, dribbling oil, said, "Ah, fuck it." Sliced purple tomato. Changed the talk to descriptions of places he had been, Strabane, South Amboy, Clark Fork. In Clark Fork had played pool with a man with a deviated septum. Wearing kangaroo gloves. Quoyle in the Adirondack chair, listened, covered his chin with his hand. There was olive oil on his interview suit, a tomato seed on his diamond-patterned tie.

Quoyle and Partridge met at a laundromat in Mockingburg, New York. Quoyle was humped over the newspaper, circling help-wanted ads while his Big Man shirts revolved. Partridge remarked that the job market was tight. Yes, said Quoyle, it was. Partridge floated an opinion on the drought, Quoyle nodded. Partridge moved the conversation to the closing of the sauerkraut factory. Quoyle fumbled his shirts from the dryer; they fell on the floor in a rain of hot coins and ballpoint pens. The shirts were streaked with ink.

"Ruined," said Quoyle.

"Naw," said Partridge. "Rub the ink with hot salt and talcum powder. Then wash them again, put a cup of bleach in."

Quoyle said he would try it. His voice wavered. Partridge was astonished to see the heavy man's colorless eyes enlarged with tears. For Quoyle was a failure at loneliness, yearned to be gregarious, to know his company was a pleasure to others.

The dryers groaned.

"Hey, come by some night," said Partridge, writing his slanting address and phone number on the back of a creased cash register receipt. He didn't have that many friends either.

The next evening Quoyle was there, gripping paper bags. The front of Partridge's house, the empty street drenched in amber light. A gilded hour. In the bags a packet of imported Swedish crackers, bottles of red, pink and white wine, foil-wrapped triangles of foreign cheeses. Some kind of hot, juggling music on the other side of Partridge's door that thrilled Quoyle.

They were friends for a while, Quoyle, Partridge and Mercalia. Their differences: Partridge black, small, a restless traveler across the slope of life, an all-night talker; Mercalia, second wife of Partridge and the color of a brown feather on dark water, a hot intelligence; Quoyle large, white, stumbling along, going nowhere.
ard

Partridge saw beyond the present, got quick shots of coming events as though loose brain wires briefly connected. He had been born with a caul; at three, witnessed ball lightning bouncing down a fire escape; dreamed of cucumbers the night before his brother-in-law was stung by hornets. He was sure of his own good fortune. He could blow perfect smoke rings. Cedar waxwings always stopped in his yard on their migration flights.

Now, in the backyard, seeing Quoyle like a dog dressed in a man's suit for a comic photo, Partridge thought of something.

"Ed Punch, managing editor down at the paper where I work is looking for a cheap reporter. Summer's over and his college rats go back to their holes. The paper's junk, but maybe give it a few months, look around for something better. What the hell, maybe you'd like it, being a reporter."

Quoyle nodded, hand over chin. If Partridge suggested he leap from a bridge he would at least lean on the rail. The advice of a friend.

"Mercalia! I'm saving the heel for you, lovely girl. It's the best part. Come on out here."

Mercalia put the cap on her pen. Weary of writing of prodigies who bit their hands and gyred around parlor chairs spouting impossible sums, dust rising from the oriental carpets beneath their stamping feet.

Ed Punch talked out of the middle of his mouth. While he talked he examined Quoyle, noticed the cheap tweed jacket the size of a horse blanket, fingernails that looked regularly held to a grindstone. He smelled submission in Quoyle, guessed he was butter of fair spreading consistency.

Quoyle's own eyes roved to a water-stained engraving on the wall. He saw a grainy face, eyes like glass eggs, a fringe of hairs rising from under the collar and cascading over its starched rim. Was it Punch's grandfather in the chipped frame? He wondered about ancestors.

"This is a family paper. We run upbeat stories with a community slant." The Mockingburg Record specialized in fawning anecdotes of local business people, profiles of folksy characters; this thin stuff padded with puzzles and contests, syndicated columns, features and cartoons. There was always a self-help quiz — "Are You a Breakfast Alcoholic?"

Punch sighed, feigned a weighty decision. "Put you on the municipal beat to help out Al Catalog. He'll break you in. Get your assignments from him."

The salary was pathetic, but Quoyle didn't know.

Al Catalog, face like a stubbled bun, slick mouth, ticked the back of his fingernail down the assignment list. His glance darted away from the back of Quoyle's chin, hammer on a nail.

"O.k., planning board meeting's a good one for you to start with. Down at the elemennary school. Whyn't you take that tonight? Sit in the little chairs. Write down everything you hear, type it up. Five hunnerd max. Take a recorder, you want. Show me the piece in the A.M. Lemme see it before you give it on to that black son of a bitch on the copy desk." Partridge was the black son of a bitch.

Quoyle at the back of the meeting, writing on his pad. Went home, typed and retyped all night at the kitchen table. In the morning, eyes circled by rings, nerved on coffee, he went to the newsroom. Waited for Al Catalog.

Ed Punch, always the first through the door, slid into his office like an eel into the rock. The A.M. parade started. Feature-page man swinging a bag of coconut doughnuts; tall Chinese woman with varnished hair; elderly circulation man with arms like hawsers; two women from layout; photo editor, yesterday's shirt all underarm stains. Quoyle at his desk pinching his chin, his head down, pretending to correct his article. It was eleven pages long.

At ten o'clock, Partridge. Red suspenders and a linen shirt. He nodded and patted his way across the newsroom, stuck his head in Punch's crevice, winked at Quoyle, settled into the copy desk slot in front of his terminal.

Partridge knew a thousand things, that wet ropes held greater weight, why a hard-boiled egg spun more readily than a raw. Eyes half closed, head tipped back in a light trance, he could cite baseball statistics as the ancients unreeled The Iliad. He reshaped banal prose, scraped the mold off Jimmy Breslin imitations. "Where are the reporters of yesteryear?" he muttered, "the nail-biting, acerbic, alcoholic nighthawk bastards who truly knew how to write?"

Quoyle brought over his copy. "Al isn't in yet," he said, squaring up the pages, "so I thought I'd give it to you."

His friend did not smile. Was on the job. Read for a few seconds, lifted his face to the fluorescent light. "Edna was in she'd shred this. Al saw it he'd tell Punch to get rid of you. You got to rewrite this. Here, sit down. Show you what's wrong. They say reporters can be made out of anything. You'll be a test case."

It was what Quoyle had expected.

"Your lead," said Partridge. "Christ!" He read aloud in a high-pitched singsong.

Last night the Pine Eye Planning Commission voted by a large margin to revise earlier recommendations for amendments to the municipal zoning code that would increase the minimum plot size of residential properties in all but downtown areas to seven acres.

"It's like reading cement. Too long. Way, way, way too long. Confused. No human interest. No quotes. Stale." His pencil roved among Quoyle's sentences, stirring and shifting. "Short words. Short sentences. Break it up. Look at this, look at this. Here's your angle down here. That's news. Move it up."

He wrenched the words around. Quoyle leaned close, stared, fidgeted, understood nothing.

"O.k., try this.

Pine Eye Planning Commission member Janice Foxley resigned during an angry late-night Tuesday meeting. "I'm not going to sit here and watch the poor people of this town get sold down the river," Foxley said.

A few minutes before Foxley's resignation the commission approved a new zoning law by a vote of 9 to 1. The new law limits minimum residential property sizes to seven acres.

"Not very snappy, no style, and still too long," said Partridge, "but going in the right direction. Get the idea? Get the sense of what's news? What you want in the lead? Here, see what you can do. Put some spin on it."

Partridge's fire never brought him to a boil. After six months of copy desk fixes Quoyle didn't recognize news, had no aptitude for detail. He was afraid of all but twelve or fifteen verbs. Had a fatal flair for the false passive. "Governor Murchie was handed a bouquet by first grader Kimberley Plud," he wrote and Edna, the crusty rewrite woman, stood up and bellowed at Quoyle. "You lobotomized moron. How the hell can you hand a governor?" Quoyle another sample of the semi-illiterates who practiced journalism nowadays. Line them up against the wall!

Quoyle sat through meetings scribbling on pads. It seemed he was part of something. Edna's roars, Partridge's picking did not hurt him. He had come up under the savage brother, the father's relentless criticism. Thrilled at the sight of his byline. Irregular hours encouraged him to imagine that he was master of his own time. Home after midnight from a debate on the wording of a minor municipal bylaw on bottle recycling, he felt he was a pin in the hinge of power. Saw the commonplaces of life as newspaper headlines. Man Walks Across Parking Lot at Moderate Pace. Women Talk of Rain. Phone Rings in Empty Room.

Partridge labored to improve him. "What don't happen is also news, Quoyle."

"I see." Pretending to understand. Hands in pockets.

"This story on the County Mutual Aid Transportation meeting? A month ago they were ready to start van service in four towns if Bugle Hollow came in. You say here that they met last night, then, way down at the end you mention sort of as a minor detail, that Bugle Hollow decided not to join. You know how many old people, no cars, people can't afford a car or a second car, commuters, been waiting for that goddamn van to pull up? Now it's not going to happen. News, Quoyle, news. Better get your mojo working." A minute later added in a different voice that he was doing Greek-style marinated fish and red peppers on skewers Friday night and did Quoyle want to come over?

He did, but wondered what a mojo actually was.

In late spring Ed Punch called Quoyle into his office, said he was fired. He looked out of his ruined face past Quoyle's ear. "It's more of a layoff. If it picks up later on..."

Quoyle got a part-time job driving a cab.

Partridge knew why. Talked Quoyle into putting on a huge apron, gave him a spoon and a jar. "His kids home from college. They got your job. Nothing to cry over. That's right, spread that mustard on the meat, let it work in."

In August, snipping dill into a Russian beef stew with pickles, Partridge said, "Punch wants you back. Says you're interested, come in Monday morning."

Punch played reluctant. Made a show of taking Quoyle back as a special favor. Temporary.

The truth was Punch had noticed that Quoyle, who spoke little himself, inspired talkers. His only skill in the game of life. His attentive posture, his flattering nods urged waterfalls of opinion, reminiscence, recollection, theorizing, guesstimating, exposition, synopsis and explication, juiced the life stories out of strangers.

And so it went. Fired, car wash attendant, rehired.

Fired, cabdriver, rehired.

Back and forth he went, down and around the county, listening to the wrangles of sewer boards, road commissions, pounding out stories of bridge repair budgets. The small decisions of local authority seemed to him the deep workings of life. In a profession that tutored its practitioners in the baseness of human nature, that revealed the corroded metal of civilization, Quoyle constructed a personal illusion of orderly progress. In atmospheres of disintegration and smoking jealousy he imagined rational compromise.

Quoyle and Partridge ate poached trout and garlic shrimps. Mercalia not there. Quoyle tossed the fennel salad. Was leaning over to pick up a fallen shrimp when Partridge rang his knife on the wine bottle.

"Announcement. About Mercalia and me."

Quoyle, grinning. Expected to hear they were having a kid. Already picked himself for godfather.

"Moving to California. Be leaving Friday night."

"What?" said Quoyle.

"Why we're going, the raw materials," Partridge said. "Wine, ripe tomatillos, alligator pears." He poured fumé blanc, then told Quoyle that really it was for love, not vegetables.

"Everything that counts is for love, Quoyle. It's the engine of life."

Mercalia had thrown down her thesis, he said, had gone blue-collar. Travel, cowboy boots, money, the gasp of air brakes, four speakers in the cab and the Uptown String Quartet on the tape deck. Enrolled in long-distance truck driving school. Graduated summa cum laude. The Overland Express in Sausalito hired her.

"She is the first black woman truck driver in America," said Partridge, winking tears. "We already got an apartment. Third one she looked at." It had, he said, a kitchen with French doors, heavenly bamboo shading the courtyard. Herb garden the size of a prayer rug. In which he would kneel.

"She got the New Orleans run. And I am going out there. Going to make smoked duck sandwiches, cold chicken breast with tarragon, her to take on the road, not go in the diners. I don't want Mercalia in those truck places. Going to grow the tarragon. I can pick up a job. Never enough copy editors to go around. Get a job anywhere."

Quoyle tried to say congratulations, ended up shaking and shaking Partridge's hand, couldn't let go.

"Look, come out and visit us," said Partridge. "Stay in touch." And still they clasped hands, pumping the air as if drawing deep water from a well.

Quoyle, stuck in bedraggled Mockingburg. A place in its third death. Stumbled in two hundred years from forests and woodland tribes, to farms, to a working-class city of machine tool and tire factories. A long recession emptied the downtown, killed the malls. Factories for sale. Slum streets, youths with guns in their pockets, political word-rattle of some litany, sore mouths and broken ideas. Who knew where the people went? Probably California.

Quoyle bought groceries at the A&B Grocery; got his gas at the D&G Convenience; took the car to the R&R Garage when it needed gas or new belts. He wrote his pieces, lived in his rented trailer watching television. Sometimes he dreamed of love. Why not? A free country. When Ed Punch fired him, he went on binges of cherry ice cream, canned ravioli.

He abstracted his life from the times. He believed he was a newspaper reporter, yet read no paper except The Mockingburg Record, and so managed to ignore terrorism, climatological change, collapsing governments, chemical spills, plagues, recession and failing banks, floating debris, the disintegrating ozone layer. Volcanoes, earthquakes and hurricanes, religious frauds, defective vehicles and scientific charlatans, mass murderers and serial killers, tidal waves of cancer, AIDS, deforestation and exploding aircraft were as remote to him as braid catches, canions and rosette-embroidered garters. Scientific journals spewed reports of mutant viruses, of machines pumping life through the near-dead, of the discovery that the galaxies were streaming apocalyptically toward an invisible Great Attractor like flies into a vacuum cleaner nozzle. That was the stuff of others' lives. He was waiting for his to begin.

He got in the habit of walking around the trailer and asking aloud, "Who knows?" He said, "Who knows?" For no one knew. He meant, anything could happen.

A spinning coin, still balanced on its rim, may fall in either direction.

Copyright © 1993 by E. Annie Proulx

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Discussion Points

  1. Proulx describes Quoyle as "a great damp loaf of a body." What kind of man is Quoyle? How does Proulx's sublime, comic style make you feel about him?
  2. When Quoyle writes for the Mockingburg Record he never seems to understand the dynamics of journalism, yet in writing "The Shipping News" he transforms The Gammy Bird and eventually becomes managing editor of the paper. Discuss some of the other changes Quoyle experiences from the beginning of the novel to the end.
  3. As Quoyle arrives in Newfoundland, he hears much of his family's past. In fact, there is an old relative, "some kind of fork kin," still alive in Newfoundland. Why does Quoyle avoid Nolan — seem angry at the old man from the start? Is the reason as simple as Quoyle denying where he came from, especially after learning the details of his father's relationship with the aunt?
  4. Proulx tells us the aunt is a lesbian, yet never makes a specific issue out of the aunt's sexual orientation. Does this fact add dimension to the story for you? Does it add to the aunt's character? We, as readers, assume that characters are heterosexual without needing to hear specifically about their sexual life. Does the matter-of-course way Proulx treats the aunt's sexuality help make the reader a less judgmental critic?
  5. Discuss Quoyle's relationship with Petal Bear. Can you justify his feelings for her? Even after her death, she continues to have a strong hold on him, and her memory threatens to squelch the potential of his feeling for Wavey Prowse. Is this because Quoyle doesn't understand love without pain? Both Quoyle and Wavey have experienced abusive relationships previously. How do they treat each other?
  6. Newfoundland is more than the setting for this story, it is a dreary yet engaging character onto itself. Does the cold weather and the rough life add to your enjoyment of the book?
  7. Do you think the chapter headings from The Ashley Book of Knots, The Mariner's Dictionary, and Quipus and Witches' Knots add to the atmosphere of the book? Did their humor illustrate some of Proulx's points, or did they simplify some of her issues? Notice especially the headings for chapters 2, 4, 28, 32, 33, and 34.

Introduction

Reading Group Discussion Points

  1. Proulx describes Quoyle as "a great damp loaf of a body." What kind of man is Quoyle? How does Proulx's sublime, comic style make you feel about him?

  2. When Quoyle writes for the Mockingburg Record he never seems to understand the dynamics of journalism, yet in writing "The Shipping News" he transforms The Gammy Bird and eventually becomes managing editor of the paper. Discuss some of the other changes Quoyle experiences from the beginning of the novel to the end.

  3. As Quoyle arrives in Newfoundland, he hears much of his family's past. In fact, there is an old relative, "some kind of fork kin," still alive in Newfoundland. Why does Quoyle avoid Nolan — seem angry at the old man from the start? Is the reason as simple as Quoyle denying where he came from, especially after learning the details of his father's relationship with the aunt?

  4. Proulx tells us the aunt is a lesbian, yet never makes a specific issue out of the aunt's sexual orientation. Does this fact add dimension to the story for you? Does it add to the aunt's character? We, as readers, assume that characters are heterosexual without needing to hear specifically about their sexual life. Does the matter-of-course way Proulx treats the aunt's sexuality help make the reader a less judgmental critic?

  5. Discuss Quoyle's relationship with Petal Bear. Can you justify his feelings for her? Even after her death, she continues to have a strong hold on him, and her memory threatens to squelch the potential of his feeling for Wavey Prowse. Is this because Quoyle doesn't understand love without pain? Both Quoyle and Wavey haveexperienced abusive relationships previously. How do they treat each other?

  6. Newfoundland is more than the setting for this story, it is a dreary yet engaging character onto itself. Does the cold weather and the rough life add to your enjoyment of the book?

  7. Do you think the chapter headings from The Ashley Book of Knots, The Mariner's Dictionary, and Quipus and Witches' Knots add to the atmosphere of the book? Did their humor illustrate some of Proulx's points, or did they simplify some of her issues? Notice especially the headings for chapters 2, 4, 28, 32, 33, and 34.

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.

Customer Reviews

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The Shipping News 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 151 reviews.
kimdep More than 1 year ago
This is the story of Quoyle.. who is always the foil.. he was treated badly growing up, was severely emotionally abused throughout his marriage to a whorish nymphomaniac, and repeatedly got fired from his dead end job. So when his aunt suggests they move to Newfoundaland he picks up his children .. Bunny & Sunshine (love their names).. and moves. In Newfoundland he is re-created. He becomes successful at his job. He is respected by others. The town has it's own quirkiness so he & the family fit in well. I liked the story a lot. To me it really reflects how our roots affect us in ways we don't even realize. I think it's really cool when a character discovers things about themselves through digging into their ancestry. The writing style is quick and easy to read. The dialogue is engaging as the town people speak with their unique accent. I enjoyed reading this story of self-discovery.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't imagine anyone not placing this book at the top of their Must Read list. The characters are real - not grand in stature - but so like the rest of us - not pretty, struggling, abandoned, but filled with a great desire to find a life. As a former newspaper woman, I especially like the way our hero narrows everything down to alliterative headlines. How could you not howl when the entire family is confined to a single motel room and the dog is farting up a storm in its sleep: Farts Fell Family of Four. You've got to love it.
cuivre More than 1 year ago
This book depressed me at first, then grew on me, and then haunted me after I finished it. Quoyle became real to me, a regular guy capable of love. I was rooting for him. I am still rooting for him all these years later.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To criticize the writing in this excellent novel is to showcase an ignorance of the reality of cadenced and often clipped thoughts each of possess, especially at our more vulnerable moments. This perfectly and artistically crafted novel is full of nuanced description, allegorical characters, and a poetic rhythm that makes for a totally unique read. Brilliant.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Definitely deserving of it's Pulitzer. I read a lot and normally know where a story is going and why, but this is so artfully complex and surprising, without being contrived. So well done!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Yes, it is complex, and yes, she does change the rules of grammar, but all to a purpose. Quoyle is symbolic of the aimless, empty lives so many of us live these days. By pure grace is he saved.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Proulx's prose is as cutting and cool as the Newfoundland coast she writes about. The characters are so real, it's as if you could reach out and touch them. Haunting, and truly magical, a book about hope and the things that keep us going.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't even bother finishing this book. It was depressing from the start, and I was never given any reason to hope for or cheer for Quoyle. He had absolutely no redeeming qualities, nor was there a thing about him to which I could relate or identify. I didn't think it was worth continuing. I don't understand why this author has so many fans.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book would have been good if it weren't so ARTSY. I think the author is trying to sound intelligent and be unique by writing sentence fragments, but I found it took away from the book. The plot is able to be developed into a good book, but the author's style of writing ruined the whole experience.
Ched on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The novel just didn't make enough sense to me. I liked what Annie Proulx wanted to do with the knots, but I think she wasted the idea by not doing enough with it. The writing, also, gets tiring, so much that I just wanted to get the book over with and move on to the next one. The characters would have been interesting if the reader could have gotten to know them better. There just wasn't enough in the story to keep me hanging on, to keep me wanting to know about life in Newfoundland. I liked the ending, though; or maybe I just liked that I was finally done with the book.
marysargent on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Wonderful, wonderful book. An original.
lindayakle on LibraryThing 8 months ago
One of my favorite contemporary novels.
bnbookgirl on LibraryThing 8 months ago
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book. The setting, the characters all come to life is such a vivid portrait. I love reading about that part of the country anyway and this novel made it come to life. The characters covered such a wide spectrum, some you loved and some you hate, but you still want to know about them. THe chapter heading are quite humorous, they are taken from various books about knots and mariner jargon. As usual Proux comes through again. A great read!!
Amzzz on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The way that the book was written made it hard to get into for me, but I did feel sympathy towards the characters and a certain desire to know what would happen next.
MarianV on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is not a book for fans of action & adventure. it is rather, a story of a man & his family, after suffering a loss, move to a new environment (Nova Scotia) & very slowly & carefully build new lives. Their progress is not steady, but it is real. Relationships start to thrive, then wither, then begin again. The characters are people we care for. The setting is enlightening for one who has not lived on the coast of an ocean. The title "Shipping News" comes from the column the hero writes for the local newsaper. The news in the novel, however, is about much more than shipping.
EdwardC on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Proulx's "happy book." A pretty amazing journey of one buffoon into character and laughter.
Aeyan on LibraryThing 8 months ago
My inner stickler is sobbing. Buffetted by Proulx's use of incomplete sentences - stand alone prepositional phrases, descriptions in brief, lists with no action - that little niggling voice of grammatical precision railed and ranted...and I deliriously enjoyed every minute of it. Like the weather that thunders and soaks through the novel, Proulx's syntax acts like a force of nature. With a decisive listing of adjectives, she could gather a picture of a character, their emotional state, their demeanor, with very few words, something for which my verbose self has great respect. Proulx's characters are remarkable. Quirks, nuances, pithy utterances - all contribute to populating the tiny Newfoundland town and surrounding areas. The main character Quoyle is perhaps best known by his synecdoche: his chin. His jutting, highly visible chin, marker of shame for him, resting point for his massive hands in a vain effort to hide its protuberant nature, can best illustrate Quoyle's flummoxed and pusillanimous self. Perhaps my favorite part of this novel (besides the thrill of being beset by incomplete sentences!) is to see the gentle Quoyle adapt to the harsh Newfoundland life, discover the joy of clearing a path through thickening brush to his quiet cove, hop aboard his wreck of a boat and assemble the bones of his new vessel, sloppily gut a fish and then do so as a matter of course, court a mirror of himself and see in her his ability to experience joy. With skill does Proulx unfold this progression of character, in bits and chunks, slowly, as Quoyle with his bulk is wont to do things, but with an incrementally increasing confidence amid confusion that makes him a truly interesting character. My inner stickler is still sobbing, the baby. Hearty book of cold places, yakking people, rain snow wind, creaking timbers, fishing industry diatribes, glorious sunlight, cod fried and breaded and pied, ocean swells, multiplicity of knots.
rayski on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A family returns back to their native home in Newfoundland, to a simpler life. There they uncover dark family secrets, learn to move on with their lives and eventually grow.
kambrogi on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Quoyle is an overweight loser with a cruel past, stuck with no friends or relatives, a dead-end job and a beloved wife who is inventively cruel. After the worst tragedy he can imagine, his only hopes are his two small children, one of whom is decidedly peculiar, and a mysterious aunt who shows up to help out. When they set off for Newfoundland, in the direction of his dubious family roots, adventures of a startling nature ensue. Although the story¿s details are rather grim ¿ haunting visions, shocking tragedies, brutal weather, shipwrecks and people dying right and left -- one is surprised and delighted by sudden scraps of wit that are likely to provoke a laugh-out-loud response. All of this told in a voice like a journalist talking with a cigar in his mouth, spouting poetry. Finally, a growing crowd of charming, quirky characters joins hands to move the story toward small triumphs and great truths, and it all ends too soon, no matter how slowly you read. An absolute gem of a book.
queencersei on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The Shipping News is a gripping story about a father trying to hold his small family together after being abandoned by his neglectful wife. Quoyle moves to his native Canada with his aunt and two young daughters to rebuild a new life. Along the way the author details the history of child abuse that was endemic not only in the small Canadian coastal village, but in Quoyle¿s family as well. The characters are sympathetic and their struggle to overcome past abuse is compelling. Annie Proulx does a wonderful job of capturing the nuances of life in the coastal town.
gwendolyndawson on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is an extremely atmospheric book. I could almost feel the fog and the bleakness. That fog and bleakness goes on for a long time, and I was pretty bored by the end. I never felt pulled into the story or the characters. Rather, the landscape itself seemed like the most compelling character of all.
snoflingor on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Picked up the Shippping News after I read Proulx's "Wyoming Stories." Excellent read. Great character development and beautiful descriptions of Newfoundland. Would have given the novel 5 stars but part of me was a little suspicious of the book's neat and tidy ending. Would probably read anything by this author. Currently waiting for my mother to finish "That Old Ace in the Hole" so I can read that next.
ktrevizo on LibraryThing 8 months ago
this was a really good book once you waded 1/2 way through, then the pace picked up and the characters became more alive and interesting.
labwriter on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Annie Proulx isn't for everyone, but I love her stuff. Is she still writing--anybody know?
skwoodiwis on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The novel was excellent and I see myself reading it again. I found it in a used bookstore. I love used bookstores. I went in with high hopes that I would be able to find another Barbara Pym novel or find ¿Whistling in the Dark.¿ I looked over the stock and found ¿The Shipping News.¿I¿ll be honest, I wasn¿t looking for ¿The Shipping News.¿ Yet the proprietor was so nice, I just couldn¿t leave without buying something ¿ and I needed a book. Well, I thought to myself let¿s see if the Pulitzer Prize can still pick `em.They did all right picking this one. My Mother was born in Canada, when I was in grade school, she raised her right hand and swore allegiance, to the United States. Whenever we don¿t see eye to eye on something I begin to sing ¿Oh Canada.¿ The Shipping News was not about life in Canada ¿ oddly enough it reflected more of what life is not in the United States. Like a dog to a bone, I keep going back to the Christian way of life and how it is nothing like it ought to be in here in the good ole U.S.A. Yeah we have big churches, lots of emotion, tons of lights and nobody knows anyone. Not so in ¿The Shipping News,¿ and Ms Proulx does not let the reader over look the fact that Christians are less than they ought to be ¿ a minor theme in the story a major theme to me. Anyway ¿ Great: ¿The Shipping News¿¿ Newfoundland is different. I was twelve when found myself in Newfoundland. I was 12 in 1976 and it was in May and I was with my Grandmother ¿ another Canadian ¿ and we were freezing our back ends off trying to board a plane to England. And then freezing our butts off trying to board a plane to Chicago. Oh the impressions that stick when is twelve. That rock, that cold gray rock of Newfoundland, I nearly wanted to kiss the ground of Chicago, the lights the sounds the ¿ home. I was home with all its raw energy and violence but that desolation of cold was not forgotten. It left an impression. So when I felt compelled to spend money in a used book store because the proprietor tried to help me but couldn¿t find what I was looking for ¿ well I thought why not ¿The Shipping News.¿Pulitzer PrizeCanadaNewfoundland. How could I go wrong?So at the end of the novel, feeling raw again because I am a Christian and depressed because the church can¿t seem to reflect Christ and it shows up continually in our literature I was out of breath, sad and still glad I read the book. The author¿s style, slowed me down ¿ a good thing. Her humor ¿ she had me laughing aloud more than once. The characters, I might be a pottering old fool someday ¿ I hope the characters never leave me. I¿d recommend this book.