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The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

The Shipping News (1993)

by E. Annie Proulx

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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11,515215333 (3.86)566
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    We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen (Jannes)
    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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English (206)  Dutch (4)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  German (1)  All languages (214)
Showing 1-5 of 206 (next | show all)
“The Shipping News” is E. Annie Proulx’s second novel, published back in 1993. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. She has a unique voice and her command of language is impressive. The strength of this book is her prose and strong sense of place. She writes in short staccato sentences, sometimes even using incomplete phrases, but with such inventive and fitting language. She seems to have a vast vocabulary but uses rare words very sparingly. Her unpretentious talent is more from finding creative uses of everyday words. This talent is very fitting for a story that largely takes place in a simple, inhospitable place, with simple characters and results in real depth underneath these humble characters and locals.

The story follows Quoyle, a hulk of a man, who’s life begins with dysfunction and tragedy. He is a man adrift in upstate New York, deadened from abuse and ill treatment. The only positive thing he receives from his early life and broken marriage to an unfaithful and dreadful wife, is two daughters. An Aunt, Angis Hamm, convinces Quoyle to return to his ancestral home in Newfoundland where he finds work on the local newspaper. This is where the story really finds solid ground with Proulx deftly describing the local culture, language, and harsh climate of Newfoundland.

If there is a weakness in this book, it’s that the striking language, and intriguing side observations tended to distract me from the story line. There were moments where I became lost in the story and needing to backtrack or accept that I was lost for a bit, until I found enough clues to navigate back to familiar waters. While several key characters were fully formed, many of the secondary characters were one dimensional and never took shape in my mind. However, the strength of the prose and the rich setting were enough to keep me engaged throughout the entire story. There was just enough struggle and heartbreak to drive the story and we see real change in Quoyle.

I finished “The Shipping News” feeling that Proulx is a better writer than character builder and story teller. But I still believe she’s a talent and this is an important work. There is such great connection between her language skills and the setting and people of this book. The desolate location, angry ocean, and gritty town feel like the best, most recognizable character in the book, if that makes sense. Worthy of its acclaim and awards, I give it four and a half stars, rounded to five. An artistic tale of small triumphs and personal growth perched in the richly layered backdrop of a seaside northern town. ( )
  Kevin_A_Kuhn | Apr 19, 2019 |
Annie Proulx’s writing offers a cool blend of distracted stream-of-consciousness with intimate knowledge of her characters’ thoughts and feelings, somehow never revealing any more than needs to be known, and creating a rich tapestry of life and place. Newspaper headlines anchor ideas into place. Small town people know sometimes more and sometimes less about the neighbors surrounding them. Family ties are fragile as ice and strong as the land that binds them. And love is a many-splendored thing, taking different forms and faces, and finally proving to carry its own grace.

Wounded by time, fate, betrayals of the past and misunderstandings of the present, characters don’t just move from one house to another, but their history moves houses, as depicted on the cover of my copy this book. And their shared history moves relationships, building and strengthening, through life and death, to a child’s learning that the dead won’t awaken and a man’s learning love might be reborn. In between, the reader learns too, and a small town becomes a microcosm, more alive than the city, more awake than the sleeper, and more hopeful than the dream.

Disclosure: I really enjoyed this book. My thanks to the friend who gave it to me. ( )
  SheilaDeeth | Sep 20, 2018 |
I'm torn.

This book took me forever to read. FOREVER. (Six and a half months, according to Goodreads.) I kept putting it down for months at a time, in order to read books in which things actually, you know, happened.

But the thing is, I liked the writing itself. I'm trying to resist using the word "lyrical" because it's on the back cover but I just can't help it. There's an undeniable poetry to the language and the tone of the novel is truly lovely and unique, really evoking a strong sense of place.

So I found it very readable, when I was reading it. But then I'd put it down and realize I didn't care in the slightest what happened next. Each individual chapter flowed along nicely enough, but I had zero emotional connection to anything about this book.

The characters are passive, unlikeable and interchangeable; the actual plot points in the entire novel could be summarized on a 3x5 index card (and you wouldn't even have to write small); the narrative point of view shifts around pointlessly; the metaphors are heavy-handed and the overly-predictable ending is sticky with contrived sentimentality. It's not only a big letdown in terms of action, it's a disappointment if you're hoping for a big emotional payoff too: insofar as the relationships change over the course of the novel, it's in a very "things left unsaid" kind of way. And not an interesting, charged-with-tension kind of "things left unsaid" either. Just the ordinary kind.

I suppose I should give the book credit for telling a story of ordinary, flawed, wounded people stepping sideways and slowly into a second, truer love, and in it finding healing, but I got so bored just writing that sentence that I fell asleep. It also feels less like a story about that and more like a story that desperately wants to convince you (and itself) that it's about that, when in fact it's just a haphazardly strung-together series of vignettes that hand-waves at the above storyline, slaps a coat of metaphor on it and hopes you'll do all the work for it and then give it a Pulitzer. ( )
3 vote wirehead | Sep 3, 2018 |
Quoyle, a reporter in his thirties who is fairly rotten at his job, loses his parents, his cheating wife, and nearly loses his two small daughters as well, before deciding to move back to his family home in Newfoundland with his aunt to try to turn his life around.
I'm afraid that this one just wasn't for me. The story is bleak and mean, the characters unlikable, and writing to match - too sparse and in the wrong ways. ( )
1 vote electrascaife | Aug 19, 2018 |
I myself am a habit-bound creature, and have a hard time breaking out of my routines. But the rewards of actually scooching outside of your established patterns can be high indeed. And finding the kind of ordinary bravery that it takes to make a change in your circumstances and how powerfully doing so can change you for the better, is what for me was at the heart of Annie Proulx's The Shipping News. Our protagonist, Quoyle (his last name, he's never given a first name), grew up the less-loved son of a cruel father. He's a big man, not particularly attractive nor particularly mentally gifted, and with the kind of aura of pathetic sadness that people seem to avoid almost in fear that it'll be catching.

He ends up working at a newspaper, and then meets and somehow marries Petal, who is lovely but unhinged, and manages to have two daughters with her. She quickly comes to loathe Quoyle, and is constantly and obviously unfaithful. She finally leaves him, but karma comes around fast and she's killed in a car accident almost immediately afterwards, leaving him a despondent widower and single father. Luckily, this is when his father's sister turns up and invites him to join her in returning to the small coastal town she and Quoyle's father grew up in: a place called Killick-Claw in Newfoundland.

Not having any other real options, Quoyle accepts and gets a job covering car crashes and shipping news for the local paper, The Gammy Bird. Over time, he develops real and deep friendships with the other townspeople, and grows closer to a young widow raising a child of her own. These slow developments in Killick-Claw make up both the bulk of the book (the plot is pretty front-loaded) and the meat of the book: Quoyle coming into his own is what it's actually about more than anything else.
This book seems like it should be tailor-made for me: small-town life, lovely prose, character study. But it just never quite clicked, much to my regret. Proulx's writing is fantastic, lovely and evocative without going into purple territory. She builds Quoyle bit by bit, showing you who he is without telling you...Quoyle's constant demonstrations of affection and concern to his daughters makes it clear how deeply important they are to him without Proulx having to spell it out. But I think it was my issues with Petal that torpedoed it for me. Besides her preposterous name (Petal Bear? really?), she couldn't have been more of a two-dimensional character: she is hateful and cruel and it's not enough to have her cheat on him, she has to bring men to their house to do it. It's not enough for her to eventually leave with the girls, she has to sell them to a pornographer (obviously they are recovered). I could believe that the kicked-dog of a man he is in the beginning would continue to love her despite the cheating, but after she tries to sell their kids like that, I can't believe that anyone would so easily forgive and hold on to that relationship as their great love affair. And since his slow process of recovery in a new place constantly references her and their tragic "love", I never could quite buy into it. Just never came together for me the way I wanted it to. ( )
1 vote 500books | May 22, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 206 (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 (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Proulx, E. AnnieAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alopaeus, MarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willemse, ReginaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"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."

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."

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."

"Cast Away, to be forced from a ship by a disaster."

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.
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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0671510053, Paperback)

In this touching and atmospheric novel set among the fishermen of Newfoundland, Proulx tells the story of Quoyle. From all outward appearances, Quoyle has gone through his first 36 years on earth as a big schlump of a loser. He's not attractive, he's not brilliant or witty or talented, and he's not the kind of person who typically assumes the central position in a novel. But Proulx creates a simple and compelling tale of Quoyle's psychological and spiritual growth. Along the way, we get to look in on the maritime beauty of what is probably a disappearing way of life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:45 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Quoyle returns to his family's longtime home, a small fishing town in Newfoundland with his young daughter. Though Quoyle has had little success thus far in life, his shipping news column in the local newspaper finds an audience, and his experiences in the town begin to change his life.… (more)

» see all 16 descriptions

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