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The Shipping News (1993)

by E. Annie Proulx

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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12,683237392 (3.86)629
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Annie Proulx's The Shipping News is a vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary North American family. Quoyle, a third-rate newspaper hack, with a "head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair...features as bunched as kissed fingertips," is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just desserts. An aunt convinces Quoyle and his two emotionally disturbed daughters to return with her to the starkly beautiful coastal landscape of their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Here, on desolate Quoyle's Point, in a house empty except for a few mementos of the family's unsavory past, the battered members of three generations try to cobble up new lives. Newfoundland is a country of coast and cove where the mercury rarely rises above seventy degrees, the local culinary delicacy is cod cheeks, and it's easier to travel by boat and snowmobile than on anything with wheels. In this harsh place of cruel storms, a collapsing fishery, and chronic unemployment, the aunt sets up as a yacht upholsterer in nearby Killick-Claw, and Quoyle finds a job reporting the shipping news for the local weekly, the Gammy Bird (a paper that specializes in sexual-abuse stories and grisly photos of car accidents). As the long winter closes its jaws of ice, each of the Quoyles confronts private demons, reels from catastrophe to minor triumph--in the company of the obsequious Mavis Bangs; Diddy Shovel the strongman; drowned Herald Prowse; cane-twirling Beety; Nutbeem, who steals foreign news from the radio; a demented cousin the aunt refuses to recognize; the much-zippered Alvin Yark; silent Wavey; and old Billy Pretty, with his bag of secrets. By the time of the spring storms Quoyle has learned how to gut cod, to escape from a pickle jar, and to tie a true lover's knot.… (more)
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    Jannes: Proulx focuses on one particular and personal fate, Jensen writes about a whole town in the voice of a vague, collective "we". The former places her story in modern-day Newfoundland, the later in 19th and early 20th century Denmark. What they have in common is the ever-present sea, its influence and demands, and how the people that relies on if for sustenance has learned to accept its whims and live with the consequences of a life at sea.… (more)
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1990s (56)
Canada (11)
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» See also 629 mentions

English (224)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (235)
Showing 1-5 of 224 (next | show all)
Quoyle, the protagonist of The Shipping News, is a lonely misfit who suffers many misfortunes in Mockingbird, NY. He marries a woman named Petal Bear, who makes him happy for only one month. Quoyle has two children with Petal: Bunny and Sunshine. But then Petal rejects Quoyle and chooses to go on the road with other men. She finally leaves Quoyle, "sells" the two girls, and dies in a car accident. Quoyle finds the girls, and he relocates with his aunt to a small town where his ancestors lived in Newfoundland.

A friend from NY, Partridge, who had been instrumental in getting Quoyle a reporting job in the past, connects Quoyle with Jack Buggitt, Editor of the Gammy Bird newspaper in Killick-Claw, Newfoundland. Quoyle begins to write stories about car wrecks for the first page of the Gammy Bird, and he also takes responsibility for articles about shipping news. Although Quoyle and Aunt Agnis Hamm had recent ancestors with disreputable characteristics, they and the girls begin to prosper in the Newfoundland shipping town. The aunt establishes a ship upholstery business, and Quoyle starts to connect with people and provides positive parenting for his two daughters.

Proulx uses multiple devices to lead readers to Quoyle's discovery of coastal life, human connections, and himself. Her chapter epigraphs from Clifford Ashley's 1944 The Ashley Book of Knots were particularly thought-provoking. The descriptions of knots represent the various attachments in Quoyle's life, some supportive and some toxic. Physical knots were significant in the book since boating and fear of drowning were critical parts of the lifestyle. Tangible knots also came into play in the habits of Quole's cousin Nolan and the aunt's upholstery business. Several figurative knots fleshed out the plot and themes of the book—complex relationships and productive relationships were tied and untied to create a memorable and distinctive novel.

I appreciate an author like Annie Proulx who can "tie" a novel together and include so many of life's issues, problems, and themes: family matters, sexual Abuse, small-town priorities, child-rearing, mental illness, children with special needs, ancestry, accepting the cycles of life and death and more. She provides mooring, which allows characters and readers to grow and reflect.

https://quipsandquotes.net/ ( )
  LindaLoretz | Jun 1, 2022 |
This is a remarkable novel where Newfoundland is one of the main characters. A recently widowed newspaperman takes a job with a local newspaper in a small town in Newfoundland. He is responsible for the shipping news reporting about the ships in the area. He moves to this town together with his two daughters and his aunt and moves into a house that his father had lived in.

The novel is full of vividly painted characters. ( )
  M_Clark | Apr 1, 2022 |
This was more than creative, it took me into the life of a very strange man, in very strange relationships, in a very strange land.
This could be a boring read for some readers, but I found the deadpan humor irresistible. The writing kept me turning pages and reading late into the night.
Everyone needs to read this novel. If for no other reason, just to experience what good literature is all about. ( )
  zoegreenfeld | Mar 4, 2022 |
Giant, gentle Quoyle (no first name is ever given, only the initials R. G. near the end of the book) loses his cheating, abusive wife in a car accident.  He moves with their two young daughters and his paternal aunt to the family's abandoned home in Newfoundland.  Quoyle takes a job with the local paper, The Gammy Bird, initially writing about car wrecks and "the shipping news" from the nearby port.  Over the following year, Quoyle and the reader meet the interesting townspeople (with quirky names like Tert Card and Wavey Prowse) and experience life in Newfoundland (particularly the impact of the weather and the sea).  Quoyle makes friends and learns to love again (himself and others).  
This novel won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize and the 1993 National Book Award, and was made into a movie in 2001 (which I don't intend to see).  Author Annie Proulx is a master at description, despite (or perhaps because of) a writing style full of sentence fragments.
Despite this, the book is pretty easy to read, thanks to short chapters, all of which have interesting names and associated quotations.  In the book's acknowledgments, Proulx states that Clifford W. Ashley's 1944 work, The Ashley Book of Knots, was an inspiration - without it, "this book would have remained just a thread of an idea."  Quotes and illustrations from that book make up most of the chapter headings, as well as some of the names.  For example, "quoyle" is a very old word for a coil of rope. ( )
  riofriotex | Oct 17, 2021 |
I struggled to get through this quirky book but am glad that I did. I never got used to the writing style or accented dialogue, which slowed me down. In the end, I really loved many of the characters, with their bleeding lives and stark words. The hope portrayed by the ending doesn’t feel fake, after walking with these people through so much turmoil. ( )
  jcoleman3307 | Oct 7, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 224 (next | show all)
It has been – astonishingly – fifteen years since I read the novel but its memory is undimmed, its glorious set pieces still vivid before my eyes.
 
In E. Annie Proulx's vigorous, quirky novel "The Shipping News," set in present-day Newfoundland, there are indeed a lot of drownings. The main characters are plagued by dangerous undercurrents, both in the physical world and in their own minds. But the local color, ribaldry and uncanny sorts of redemption of Ms. Proulx's third book of fiction keep the reader from slipping under, into the murk of loss.
 

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Proulx, E. Annieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alopaeus, MarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hofmann, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willemse, ReginaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"In a knot of eight crossings, which is about the average-size knit. there are 256 different 'over-and-under' arrangements possible. . . Make only one change in this 'over and under' sequence and either an entirely different knot is made or no knot at all may result."

THE ASHLEY BOOK OF KNOTS
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
In the old days a love-sick sailor might send the object of his affections a length of fishline loosely tied in a true-lover's knot. If the knot as sent back as it came the relationship was static. If the knot returned home snugly drawn up the passion was reciprocated. But if the knot was capsized - tacit advice to ship out.
"The strangle knot will hold a coil well . . . It is first tied loosely and then worked snug."

THE ASHLEY BOOK OF KNOTS
"Cast Away, to be forced from a ship by a disaster."

THE MARINER'S DICTIONARY
Dedication
For Jon, Gillis and Morgan
First words
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.
Quotations
Walking keeps you smart.
fried bologna isn't bad.
Desire reversed to detestation like a rubber glove turned inside out.
We run a car wreck photo every week, whether we have a car wreck or not. That's our golden rule.
In Wyoming they name girls Skye, in Newfoundland it's Wavey.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Blurbers
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Wikipedia in English

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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Annie Proulx's The Shipping News is a vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary North American family. Quoyle, a third-rate newspaper hack, with a "head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair...features as bunched as kissed fingertips," is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just desserts. An aunt convinces Quoyle and his two emotionally disturbed daughters to return with her to the starkly beautiful coastal landscape of their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Here, on desolate Quoyle's Point, in a house empty except for a few mementos of the family's unsavory past, the battered members of three generations try to cobble up new lives. Newfoundland is a country of coast and cove where the mercury rarely rises above seventy degrees, the local culinary delicacy is cod cheeks, and it's easier to travel by boat and snowmobile than on anything with wheels. In this harsh place of cruel storms, a collapsing fishery, and chronic unemployment, the aunt sets up as a yacht upholsterer in nearby Killick-Claw, and Quoyle finds a job reporting the shipping news for the local weekly, the Gammy Bird (a paper that specializes in sexual-abuse stories and grisly photos of car accidents). As the long winter closes its jaws of ice, each of the Quoyles confronts private demons, reels from catastrophe to minor triumph--in the company of the obsequious Mavis Bangs; Diddy Shovel the strongman; drowned Herald Prowse; cane-twirling Beety; Nutbeem, who steals foreign news from the radio; a demented cousin the aunt refuses to recognize; the much-zippered Alvin Yark; silent Wavey; and old Billy Pretty, with his bag of secrets. By the time of the spring storms Quoyle has learned how to gut cod, to escape from a pickle jar, and to tie a true lover's knot.

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Book description
From the get-go, Quoyle is a loser. Not only is he physically unattractive with a "great damp loaf of a body," but he is also not too bright. His father despises him, and his brother, constantly taunts him. He drifts from job to job, never able to keep one for more than a few months. He gets married, only to have his wife sell their two daughters to a child pornographer and leave him. The Shipping News describes Quoyle's psychological and spiritual rebirth. Left with two children to raise after he rescues them, and no job, he returns to Newfoundland, the land of his ancestors. A sometime newspaper reporter, he gets a job reporting on shipping news with a local publication, and becomes a minor celebrity. Gradually he is transformed into a loving father and a valued neighbor.
    -----------------------------------


When Quoyle's two-timing wife meets her just deserts, he retreats with his two daughters to his ancestral home on the starkly beautiful Newfoundland coast, where a rich cast of local characters and family members all play a part in Quoyle's struggle to reclaim his life. As Quoyle confronts his private demons   and the unpredictable forces of nature and society - he begins to see the possibility of love without pain or misery.
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