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The Shipping News
by E. Annie Proulx

To:                ALL                   Date:    07/16
From:   SEZG73A    STEVE WARBASSE        Time:     3:52 PM

 I have been chipping away at THE SHIPPING NEWS for about   
three weeks now amid other reading projects, inspired to    
try it by the discussions of it that have taken place here  
over the last several months and by Bruce Hudson, who much  
prefers the anti-hero to the romantic hero of say THE       
ENGLISH PATIENT, for example.  However, for the most part   
these discussions were unintelligible to me at the time.    
Therefore, I thought I would write down a few observations  
about this book that might be of help to those that have    
not read it in determining whether to give it a go.         
 On the surface the story told here is a simple one.  The   
protagonist, Quoyle, at the outset is a thirty-six year old 
incompetent college dropout working for a nickel and dime   
local newspaper, reviled by his family and shamelessly      
cuckolded by his nymphomaniac wife, Petal, with whom he is  
hopelessly in love and by whom he has two emotionally       
unstable daughters.  This guy is a mess physically,         
too--obese and freckled with a horrendously prominent chin  
that he tends to cover with his hand when faced with        
disturbing circumstances.  When Petal is conveniently       
disposed of in an automobile collision after trying to sell 
the two daughters, an aunt takes Quoyle and his daughters   
under her wing, and they travel back to the family's        
ancestral home--Newfoundland.  There Quoyle develops into a 
competent columnist for a newspaper called the GAMMY BIRD,  
finally acquires a very decent, custom-made boat, and, sure 
enough, slowly discovers and wins the love of his life, the 
quiet and stable Wavey, the kind of ideal step-mother for   
the daughters that is only found in fiction.  Other         
miracles happen along the way, too.                         
 So why read it, other than to be able to say that one has  
read another winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National  
Book Award?  First, structure.  The book is hung together   
through the ingenious use of another book published in 1944 
entitled THE ASHLEY BOOK OF KNOTS, which Ms. Proulx claims  
she found at a garage sale for twenty-five cents.  Excerpts 
preface THE SHIPPING NEWS and each chapter therein.  In     
fact the word "Quoyle" is defined therein as a coil of rope 
that can be walked upon.  (Also, I finally learned the      
difference between a clove hitch and two half hitches.)     
The aptness of the choice and placement of the selections   
from this book of knots in some cases is readily apparent   
and in other cases intriguingly mysterious.  I liked the    
device a lot.                                               
 Second, style, which I probably should have listed first.  
This lady has an extraordinary style--a style that quite    
honestly takes some getting used to.  There is good deal of 
whimsy to it ala John Irving. I was reminded of him quite   
often.  She makes use of sentence fragments a good deal.    
And she is hell on wheels with metaphors and similes.       
Initially, I found myself muttering to myself that many of  
these just didn't work.  Yet, after finally finishing the   
book and rereading portions in order to find some examples  
of what I considered inept metaphors, I couldn't find any   
and instead found a good many great ones.  Again, as with   
Marquez, I had managed to get in the swing of the thing     
after a time, to Ms. Proulx's great relief I am sure.       
 Third, as usual with any book I come to like well,         
passages that really did the trick for me emotionally.  I   
really liked the passage toward the end where Quoyle stands 
unclothed in front of the mirror after bathing and is       
finally at peace with his physical appearance as he         
approaches middle age.  And this one, not by accident an    
extended simile:                                            
 "Quoyle let himself be dragged through the company, eyes   
catching Wavey's eyes, catching Wavey's smile, oh, aimed    
only at him, and upstairs to Bunny's room.  On the stairs   
an image came to him.  Was love then like a bag of assorted 
sweets passed around from which one might choose more than  
once?  Some might sting the tongue, some invoke night       
perfume. . . . [continued]                                  

To: ALL Date: 07/16 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 3:52 PM [continued]. . .Some had centers as bitter as gall, some blended honey and poison, some were quickly swallowed. And among the common bull's-eyes and peppermints a few rare ones; one or two with deadly needles at the heart, another that brought calm and gentle pleasure. Were his fingers closing on that one?" Last, numerous vivid characters--my personal favorites being Alvin Yark the singing boat maker with only one tune to his name and Jack Buggit the newspaper publisher haunted by what the sea has done to his fishing family--and a place vividly rendered, Killick-Claw, Newfoundland. All in all, not a bad job for a girl. Steve =============== Reply 1 of Note 47 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 07/16 From: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 7:35 PM Steve: Good for a girl? My God, man, you do lead with your chin, don't you? I'd not heard the story about Proulx getting an Ashley for 25 cents (when did they take the 'cent' symbol off of keyboards?), and I'm envious. Using the knot motif on the chapter heads was an attractive and interesting device, however. A very imaginative way of suggesting the complexity of human relations through the topology of the knots; I must admit I spent no time attempting to puzzle out any particular relationships. I finished this book just about the same time as The Lady's Not For Burning and was struck by the similarity of the conclusions: no matter how badly life has treated you, hope and taking another chance are the antidotes. Kind of schmaltzy, but then, I'm a schmaltzy kind of guy (and one who believes girls do everything FABULOUSLY, all the time, and is sticking with that story). I had a lot of trouble with this book, because I didn't much like Quoyle. He was so absolutely clueless: didn't know when he had it bad; hardly knew when he had it good. Reminded me a bit of that guy in Confederacy of Dunces; not quite as inept, but nearly. The best part was it got me listening to a lot of Stan Rogers music while I read it, in an effort to "get ethnic" on Canadian issues. Proulx is such a first class writer, it makes me wish she'd come up with a protagonist that doesn't trigger my gag point. 'Course, maybe she wasn't all that fond of Mr. Quoyle either. Dick in Alaska, where Rutherford was selected over Beaumont to do the deed with Charlie, and where it remains to be seen if dogs with names like that can do ANYTHING, much less the deed =============== Reply 2 of Note 47 =================  
To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 07/17 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 12:39 PM Well, Dick, everyone MUST realize that the "good for a girl" remark was another weak attempt at humor. I mean the woman is cleaning up every literary prize known to man. Still someone must make the attempt to keep these great writers, like the BSSN, humble. Your remarks on the book are certainly apt and echo my reaction to the plot and the protagonist precisely. On the other hand this lady is so obviously skillful that one can't help but believe that sooner or later she is going to put out the really killer novel. Steve =============== Reply 3 of Note 47 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 07/17 From: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 1:18 PM Steve: Of course, I knew you were joking (and didn't you know that I was?). One of the interesting things about communicating by computer is it makes me aware of how much body language and facial expression contribute to speech content. When I first started posting on line, I was resistant to using the /// format for transmitting the notion of the a raised eyebrow or a complacent smirk (actually, I have two other facial expressions, but I try to save those for opening and closing). After a few experiences where the other party signed off in a huff, firmly convinced that I was being intentionally rude, I came to the sad conclusion that irony (at least) in on-line, interpersonal communications is not something that can always be conveyed by the words of communication themselves. Words apparently need context, and the computer screen is a flat and barren plain indeed on which to spread ideas. Perhaps that's why fiction that depends entirely on dialogue, is so rare (frankly, I can't think of any off hand, but I bet by tonight there'll be a list on here from Cathy, Dale, Allen, et. al); and further, that may be why some of the CR's don't enjoy reading plays, in the raw. Dick in Alaska, where he's finishing two separate briefs today and is in between drafts =============== Reply 4 of Note 47 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 07/17 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 10:37 PM greetings... your comments are too good not to be sent directly to my dear friend ANNIE PROULX... gail..a passionate reader who enjoys when you all dissect a novel with elan... =============== Reply 5 of Note 47 =================  
To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 07/17 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 11:28 PM Dick: Now that you mention it, there is at least one novel composed entirely of dialogue...Nicholson Baker's VOX. Anybody know of others? >>Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 6 of Note 47 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 07/18 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 2:13 PM Then please extend my warmest regards and expressions of admiration to Ms. Proulx, gail. Furthermore, ask her if the frames of her spectacles are by Armani. It appears to me that we both may well wear the very same ones. Also, ask her if she ever attended the Writer's Workshop in Iowa City, supporting herself the while by tending bar at the watering hole known as The Vine, which is immortalized in Denis Johnson's JESUS' SON. I could swear that was her, but maybe it is just an illusion created by the angle of her dust jacket photo. These may be the only two things we have in common, but it would be something at least. You know, gail, I don't believe that prior to the summer of '93 when I commenced keeping company with you characters here, I had never read any work by any female fictioneer who had not been dead for at least a hundred years. Now I am as. . . . . waist deep in them--Josephine Humphreys, Annie Proulx, Alice Munro, Carol Shields, Anita Brookner, for example. For this I thank you all. I am just sure that there is a latter day George Eliot in here somewhere. Could be Ms. Proulx. Tell her to keep chipping away at that killer novel. I promise that when it appears, I will buy it instead of checking it out of the library. That should keep her inspired. Wild Man (who has just been informed that Rachel Stein is interested in a BLIND plumber, not a BLOND plumber--BLIND men being so very tactile. I misunderstood. That does make more sense, but then again I don't have much personal experience with either blind or blond plumbers so certainly I am to be forgiven. Please, all, correct your manuscripts of tour.wps accordingly.) =============== Reply 7 of Note 47 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 07/19 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:14 AM A blind plumber sounds like an accident on the way to happen, but what should I know? When Larry installed my hand-held shower without the aid of a plumber, he couldn't get the installation tight enough to keep water from going in every direction. So he did what he learned to do in college - tied a rag around the pesky jointure. Wonderful the things you can learn in college these days. By the way, for an interesting take on dialogue only versus conventional storytelling, check out Steven Vincent Benet's THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER and Douglas Moore's opera of the same name. Benet adapted the story for Moore before his own unfortunately early death, so it's the same hand both cases. It's an interesting comparison. Cathy =============== Reply 8 of Note 47 =================  
To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 07/19 From: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Time: 10:41 AM Richard: Nominations for fiction depending solely on dialog -- Everything ever written by George Higgins (FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, etc.) . Admittedly this gets a little tiresome after the third or fourth book, and it's mostly dialog not entirely dialog. --Jim in Oregon =============== Reply 9 of Note 47 =================  
To: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Date: 07/20 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 1:42 PM I was delighted to see you mention George V. Higgins, Jim. I touted his work here some months ago. The master of dialogue. As you know, he is a lawyer out of Boston, and he really has Boston speech patterns down as near as I am able to judge. My favorite character of his is Jerry Kennedy, I believe the name is. KENNEDY FOR THE DEFENSE is one title that comes to mind. These are the only lawyer fiction pieces that I can abide. But you are right. One needs a break between each of his books. This style can be wearing in big doses. @Wild Man@ =============== Reply 10 of Note 47 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 07/20 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 9:32 PM Steve--Bruce has been telling me that I'd like THE SHIPPING NEWS too and he usually has a good sense for that. Your synopsis has me more interested than other descriptions I've read so I'll forgive you for the "good for a girl" comment. You're so lucky , , , etc., etc. Barbara =============== Reply 11 of Note 47 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 07/20 From: NPVX84A MARIA BUSTILLOS Time: 9:52 PM I thought The Shipping News was pretty weak really. Couldn't get into the knot thing (gimmicky, I thought), nor the really irritating fable about how every man has four women in his life: The Demon Lover, The Silent Irritating Wavey (what kind of name is this?), etc. Loved the one remark about Petal's essence riding under his skin like a vaccine against the plague of love, though. I remember reading that and writing to someone (Divina, I think) that unfortunately some of us need an IV, and there is still no hope. Owing to immune deficiency. =============== Reply 12 of Note 47 =================  
To: NPVX84A MARIA BUSTILLOS Date: 07/20 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 11:37 PM Maria: If the book wasn't weak, certainly its protagonist was. Quoyle seems to have raised everyone's hackles; perhaps Gail could ask Ms. Proulx if that was what she intended. The more I think about it, the more I think she was intentionally depicting a despicable man, essentially at the mercy of, and prey to, the women of the story. His damnation and his salvation were all creations of the women in the book, and had precious little to do with Quoyle, who is a monument to moral, emotional and physical passivity. I need to read more of this writer; she intrigues me greatly. Dick in Alaska, who's taking a break from serious stuff with "The Legend of Bagger Vance"  
To: ALL Date: 09/15 From: TVBX50B M BILLINGTON Time: 12:52 PM All, The Shipping News!!! Boy, I've definitely found a good book. I'm not finished yet, though I just started reading it yesterday, and I'm about 1/2 way through. Quoyle and Billy Pretty are being shown Tough Baby, Hitler's Pleasure ship. By tomorrow, I'll probably be finished. I just figured I'd let you know. E. Annie Proulx is a superb authoress. What does the "E" stand for anyway? Meredith, CR in slightly chilly MD =============== Reply 1 of Note 56 =================  
To: TVBX50B M BILLINGTON Date: 09/15 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:57 PM Meredith: Hee-hee, I have no idea what the "E" stands for, but it's a heck of a book, isn't it? We had our criticisms about some parts earlier, but that woman can WRITE. The "Hee-hee" is the satisfied chuckle of a confirmed book addict, watching someone mainline the GOOD stuff. Dick in Alaska, where he gets such a kick out of leading young people literarily astray =============== Reply 2 of Note 56 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 09/16 From: GGTZ54D HUNTEROSE SANDMAN Time: 0:48 AM #*&%! you Dick ! Lead me astray at once! Your reply re: E(?) Annie Proulx is so irresistible that I had to write you and demand, or whine until you posted some info about said authoress and/or her writing to set my literary libido into a state of carbonation! It doesn't have to be erotic in that sense, of course . . . but, Good lord . . . turn me on to someone you say writes so well. Morpheus =============== Reply 3 of Note 56 =================  
To: TVBX50B M BILLINGTON Date: 09/16 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 8:50 AM Meredith, THE SHIPPING NEWS in on our slo-mo reading list. I oughta know cause I put it there. Great book, huh? Allen will probably get to it sometime within the next 3 or 4 months, if you want to wait for some of the rest of us to discuss it, but hereabouts you can discuss any book at any time. Sherry in Milwaukee =============== Reply 4 of Note 56 =================  
To: GGTZ54D HUNTEROSE SANDMAN Date: 09/16 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:22 AM M: E. Anie Proulx won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 1993 National Book Award for Fiction, and the IRISH TIMES International Fiction Prize for the book THE SHIPPING NEWS. She is also the author of POSTCARDS, winner of the 1993 PEN/Faulkner Award. She has written a collection of short stories, HEART SONGS AND OTHER STORIES. She lives in Vermont and Newfoundland, presumably not at the same time. I cribbed all of this off the back of my copy of TSN. As noted previously, we had a little pre-discussion of this book a couple of months ago, and the participants seemed to agree that while there were parts of the book that didn't get them all the way to the fair, it is an excellent book well worth reading and that Ms. Proulx could tap on our keyboards anytime she wanted. Dick in Alaska, where he's betting on 'Ellen' for the 'E', meaning the poor thing grew up in some grimy Canadian setting with the name 'EllenAnn Proulx' P.S. No sex to speak of, which is something of a relief after the last six weeks of Blood Countess, Palinor goes Upstairs/Downstairs in Knowledge of Angels, and my own heavy-breathing favorite: Two Girls, Fat and Thin. Sheesh. It's like living through the seventies all over again.... =============== Reply 5 of Note 56 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 09/16 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 11:16 AM Meredith, Morpheus and all: I lose on the 'Ellen' guess. Turns out, her name's 'Edna' according to my trusty Reader's Guide to the 20th Century Novel (A good little sourcebook of reviews and information incidentally). Dick in Alaska, where as usual, his fantasy life has far outstripped reality =============== Reply 6 of Note 56 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 09/17 From: TVBX50B M BILLINGTON Time: 5:25 PM Richard,(Sounds better than what you signed off as) You're funny Meredith, CR in pleasant MD =============== Reply 7 of Note 56 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 09/17 From: TVBX50B M BILLINGTON Time: 5:28 PM Sherry, Well, I just couldn't wait. Though, I'm still not finished. I just wanted to give people my immediate impressions. It's not a slo-mo, it's really fast. Meredith, CR in pleasant MD =============== Note 24 =================  
To: ALL Date: 04/07 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 7:49 PM THE SHIPPING NEWS...E.ANNIE PROULX... to start the thread on this powerful novel i have spent my EASTER laboriously typing away so i can contribute something to all you erudite CR's....who make a book COME ALIVE for me.. gail.. a passionate reader in sunny and warm SAN FRANCISCO...stay post... =============== Reply 1 of Note 24 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 04/07 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 8:04 PM E. ANNIE PROULX...greetings...some background to provide a fuller picture..... The 'E' is for EDNA....and Proulx rhymes with true...E.ANNIE PROULX has been compared to Dickens, Faulkner, Dreiser, Dostoevsky...IN ADDITION to the PULITIZER PRIZE, THE SHIPPING NEWS, WON THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD....THE IRISH TIMES INTERNATIONAL FICTION PRIZE and was nominatedfor the NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD... ANNIE PROULX came late to novels...she wrote for magazines; articles about weather, apples, canoeing, mountain lions, mice....some short stories were collected into a book....when her editor suggested a novel, she balked at first. AP....i thought I was a short story writer..i hadn't a clue I was a never occurred to me. I had these short stories that were overpopulated and had too much detail and were crammed with too many events and I didn't know what was wrong, and I had a hard, hard time doing, the novel was was a great relief to have all of these pages to be able to spread the characters out, to build character and take it apart again. at the age of 56, AP published POST won the 1993 PEN FAULKNER FICTION award...THE SHIPPING NEWS came out a year later... Proulx has not written in a year but has at least three novels stacked up in her brain...characters..beginning..middle, end... the story itself is essentially finished and wrapped up, and sitting in my mind like a, literally, like a box wrapped up in brown paper, which is how I think of it...... five prizes this year.....each one thrilling but each an interruption...halfway through a third novel, she has not had time to finish it... AP; THERE'S just no way that you can even think about the just put it aside and you haul out your tattered wardrobe and get on the plane and do you r thing..and for me, being a rather a country mouse type who hangs around in the bushes rather then in the hot watering spots, it;s always something of an ordeal to get gussied up and come down to the city.... tbc =============== Reply 2 of Note 24 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 04/07 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 8:20 PM PART TWO.... ANNIE PROULX is a solid, practical looking woman,unadorned, direct. She's had three husbands, three sons....when she smiles or laughs, which she does frequently, she shows her teeth, then draws her upper lip down to cover them. she has graceful hands and few lines in her face.....she is someone people are comfortable with, though she doesn't seem that comfortable. she was born in Connecticut, but, since 1947 she has lived in 13 towns in VERMONT....HER PEOPLE were FRENCH CANADIANS; her father's grandmother, the mysterious. AP; we knew nothing about my father's grandmother..we had nothing of letters..or notes, no diaries....very difficult to find out a single thing.. the day after AP learned she had won her very first award..the mail brought news from a researcher ..a document dated 1912, in which her great grandmother gave permission to her young daughter to worry...and on the line for the signature was an ''X' ..the town clerk had written above it, her was my great grandmother...she was illiterate. now ANNIE PROULX dedicates money and resources to fight illiteracy, because reading what we finally leave behind..books, birth and marriage certificates...pieces of paper... the pieces of paper are tremendously important..the things that are written down..that's all that is left..... NPR MORNING EDITION...may 31, l994....SUSAN STAMBERG..reporter gail...a passionate reader and admirer of E. ANNIE PROULX... =============== Reply 3 of Note 24 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 04/07 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 8:51 PM Permission to worry? Maybe it was to marry? Gail, what a slip (if it was yours...) Don't worry, I won't tell the G-man. Theresa =============== Reply 4 of Note 24 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 04/07 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 11:32 PM I'm only about 90 pages into THE SHIPPING NEWS, but am very glad that it was nominated for the slo-mo list. For some reason, I wasn't drawn to this book when I looked at it in the bookstore and probably wouldn't have read it. Now, I am totally involved. Love the writing. Her use of metaphor and simile seem truly her own. Which reminds me, do my old rules from h.s. and college writing classes still apply? Is it still a simile, and not a metaphor, when "like" or "as" is used? And, gail, thank you for giving us that info about Proulx. I knew nothing about her and, for some reason, had the impression that she was younger. It fits more with her writing that she has had more time to accumulate experience. Barbara =============== Reply 5 of Note 24 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 04/08 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 9:42 PM greetings THERESA... i always think no one reads my posts...which is i need a vehicle for i realize you have not only read but have discovered a SLIGHT ERROR... with fondness...gail.. a passionate reader in drizzly..foggy SAN FRANCISCO... =============== Reply 6 of Note 24 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 04/11 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 8:45 AM gail, gail, gail! How could you for one second think that nobody reads your posts? I read ALL of your posts. Before I met you, I could have cared less what book won what prize. (Booker, Schmooker.) Now I tend to think that there is some merit to these prizes, having read several of the books to which you have called my attention in this manner. AND I would never, and I mean never, have learned the correct pronunciation of E. Annie Proulx's name without you. By the way the book on tape in the old van, Black Beauty, is at present THE MISALLIANCE by Anita Brookner, my third by her now. I listened to the meat of it recently on a trip to and from a very profitable card game, and her smooth Anglican prose is now pleasantly associated in my mind with the Dostoyevskian ability to hit a sixteen with absolute impunity and the unshakeable faith that the three, the four, or the five will fall. Barbara, I will be very interested in reading your further observations on THE SHIPPING NEWS as you read on. Do you find that the style of the writing changes the deeper into the book that you get? Or was that an illusion on my part. It became easier as I progressed. Of course old Quoyle's life becomes more and more wired together as the book progresses, too. One of my favorite book related Web sites is THE HUNGRY MIND REVIEW ( This is a periodical that I am sure many have stumbled across in their local book store. They are attempting to get some discussion groups going, and one device they use is "surveys" of opinion authored by writers. E. Annie Proulx (rhymes with TRUE) is the author of one of the surveys that is open for response right now. It deals with imagination, and oddly enough includes several reverences to the works of James Thurber as its jumping off point. ( In any event the discussion that has started in one of those little groups concerns setting, an aspect of novels that we don't necessarily discuss much, but which is obviously so important. The setting of THE SHIPPING NEWS is so critical for the overall impact of the book that it is almost like another character. Kinda like the moor in WUTHERING HEIGHTS. "This place, she thought, this rock, six thousand miles of coast blind-wrapped in fog. Sunkers under wrinkled water, boats threading tickles between ice-scabbed cliffs. Tundra and barrens, a land of stunted spruce men cut and drew away." I like that. "ice-scabbed" I like that. Your pal, Steve =============== Reply 7 of Note 24 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/11 From: FDLX59B MARY ANNE PAPALE Time: 9:45 PM Barbara, Funny you should mention the old rules. How about this one:"each sentence has a subject and a verb"? There are definitely some of the old rules broken here, but it seems to work. It takes a while to get used to the cadence of AP's writing. After a while, the rhythm of the tale takes over. The first part of THE SHIPPING NEWS reminded me of CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES. Quoyle is a hapless, oafish fool set up for the world's ridicule. When the book moves to Newfoundland, Quoyle's quirks pale by comparison to those of the other residents. What a difference between this book and POSTCARDS, which sent me into a reader's funk which sapped my reading zeal for several weeks. Mary Anne =============== Reply 8 of Note 24 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/11 From: FDLX59B MARY ANNE PAPALE Time: 9:56 PM Steve, You're so right about the setting being critical in TSN. I've read AP's bio, and I know about her French Canadian heritage, but does that alone give her what she needed to set the stage for this book? I feel like she must have lived the life herself to have written about Newfoundland so beautifully. And yes, the book does get easier to read as Quoyle's life comes together. But it seems to me that Quoyle himself doesn't change much. The setting, the people, and what he knows are the means of his comeback. Mary Anne =============== Reply 9 of Note 24 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 04/11 From: ZRAK98A ROBERT AVERY Time: 10:07 PM Gail, Ditto the comments from others. I always read your notes..."cover to cover", and I had to chuckle when I read someone elses reply that they would never have learned how to pronounce Proulx w/o your commentary. I will (seriously) be eternally grateful to you for telling me it rhymes with true!!! Bob, who has heard the mermaids singing, each to each... =============== Reply 10 of Note 24 =================  
To: FDLX59B MARY ANNE PAPALE Date: 04/11 From: ZRAK98A ROBERT AVERY Time: 10:12 PM All, Now Quoyle is a hero I can get into...forget Michael K!! Here's a guy who sure as hell doesn't have much going for him, except goodness of heart and perseverance; who makes good. Who wants to tell me the significance of the lashed down house-upon-the-rocks - one of the best characters in the book? Bob, who has TSN VERY close to the top of his all-time list... =============== Reply 11 of Note 24 =================  
To: FDLX59B MARY ANNE PAPALE Date: 04/12 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 9:56 AM PAPALE. What a beautiful name! I hope to heaven that the "e" is not silent! Is it like PAH-PAH-LEE? Don't even respond if that "e" is silent, please. I think you're right. For the most part Quoyle is the same lantern-jawed, old Quoyle at the end of the book as he was at the beginning. He just found his place. Perhaps that is the true theme of this book. There is a place for everyone, but not everyone finds their place. Or more properly, their place doesn't find them. Quoyle's place found him. Your pal, Steve 4/12/96 8:24AM CT =============== Reply 12 of Note 24 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/12 From: FDLX59B MARY ANNE PAPALE Time: 10:25 PM Bingo! You have succeeded where so many have failed. I can always tell that it's a tele-marketer calling when they want to make me PA-PALE. So I say "There's no one here by that name". How about the use of the device of the knots in TSN? And yes, the house was tied down by ropes. But then it came off its moorings. Ropes, coils, knots...all of life seems to be tethered to our anti-hero. Mary Anne =============== Reply 14 of Note 24 =================  
To: FDLX59B MARY ANNE PAPALE Date: 04/13 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 3:19 PM Finished THE SHIPPING NEWS late last night. Probably my only criticism was that I was not sure if I bought Quoyle's transformation into an insightful journalist and editorial writer. There was some change in his overall persona, though it was mainly one of confidence, but, as Mary Anne pointed out, it may be because his problems paled in comparison to the other residents. However, I really thought that the quality and insight of his writing didn't quite mesh with who he was. Maybe, it was hard for Proulx to approximate less capable writing? Though his growing confidence made him more willing to believe his own perceptions, I never thought they were quite that keen. On the other hand, I was very glad that Proulx didn't yield to the temptation to make him a more romantic character. He was simply not physically attractive and, though she has him looking in the mirror at his nude self and accepting himself at the end, she never pretends that he's transformed. I loved the little lines that emphasized his mild obsession with food, always wondering if he had ordered enough, hoping to get the last piece of cake, etc. I also loved her description of the absolute anger that prolonged, intense cold and helplessness in the face of the elements brings. Did you relate, Dick? And, wasn't the school play wonderful? I enjoyed the phenomena of a whole town stuck in deep winter coming out to provide entertainment for themselves. I mean, I want to see Auntie Sofier's chicken act! Though it would probably pale in comparison to Proulx's verbal description...they always do. As to the language style, I liked it and thought it fit with the people it was describing. Reading it was definitely an acquired skill and that was my impression as to why it got easier as the book went on. Often she was capturing so much in so few words that I had to make myself go back and read it again. The style reminded me of a lot of things. For one, I thought of the children I teach who when they first develop language choose only the essential words and still get their thoughts across in a minimal way. Many deaf people using sign language have the same style. Also, it reminded me of the people in the upper peninsula of Michigan, which is sort of a state apart, and sometimes as isolated as life in New Zealand. And, I also thought of some farmers I grew up with in Indiana who had to work incredibly long days to stay afloat and saw no need for extensive elaboration. Really liked the depiction of Herry. Since I teach handicapped children, I'm always critical of their portrayal in books. And, the effect of pushing to create educational programs for him on Wavey was similar to the effect I've seen on other parents in that situation. People who start out relatively retiring develop new personalities sometimes when it means looking out for the rights of their children. And the meaning of the house slipping away in the storm...I thought I had it late last night, but should've written it down then as it doesn't come back as sharply now. Though, Quoyle didn't fit in New York and needed to get back to a simpler place, the awful legacy of the original Quoyle's dogged him there. And, it would seem that the cruelty of the father who sexually abused the aunt and the cruelty of Quoyle's brother was part of that legacy. In a way, Q was representative of some of the best of that place and maybe the house, that the original Quoyles had lugged across the ice and lashed to the rock, was representative of the bad part of it. Would it's disappearance have to do with Quoyle doing away some of the effects of that legacy? Barb =============== Reply 15 of Note 24 =================  
To: FDLX59B MARY ANNE PAPALE Date: 04/13 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 3:19 PM Also, one of my frequent annoyances with books is poorly done endings...the ones that just trickle off or don't mesh or fit logically with the rest of the book. The last paragraph in THE SHIPPING NEWS ranks as one of my favorite endings in quite some time. It just seems to tie the whole story up. Can't resist posting it here: *** Quoyle experieced moments in all colors, uttered brilliancies, paid attention to the rich sound of waves counting stones, he laughed and wept, noticed sunsets, heard music in rain, said I do. A row of shining hubcaps on sticks appeared in the front yard of the Burkes' house. A wedding present from the bride's father. For if Jack Buggit could escape from the pickle jar, if a bird with a broken neck could fly away, what else may be possible? Water may be older than light, diamonds crack in hot goat's blood, mountaintops give off cold fire, forests appear in mid-ocean, it may happen that a crab is caught with the shadow of a hand on its back, that the wind be imprisoned in a bit of knotted string. And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery."*** Barb =============== Reply 16 of Note 24 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 04/14 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 3:40 PM Gail - of COURSE I read your posts - you know I was just kidding around. I certainly wouldn't be throwing stones - since in the past few weeks I've managed to misspell avant garde (which I knew how to spell) and imbueing (imbuing? I'm still not sure what's correct here) - and also gave someone justicial powers, whatever those may be... I thought your plan to save Prodigy was a trip. I think we should have Sabrina psych out the opposition, since she wrote she was a psychologist. Theresa (fighting a cold which will not go away - probably because I haven't given in and spent a day at rest yet.) =============== Reply 17 of Note 24 =================  
To: FDLX59B MARY ANNE PAPALE Date: 04/14 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 7:13 PM Yes, the knots. The hallmark of this book. I thought the knots were an extremely ingenious device as employed here by Ms. Proulx, who at the same time avoided that oh so common pitfall of ingenious devices--cuteness. Barbara may be correct in her criticism that Quoyle's writing toward the end was a bit too good to be true. I had no problem viewing it as the blooming of the same old Quoyle though. Clearly, Barbara's assessment of the ending is right on the button. I suspect that we non-writers grossly underestimate the difficulty of ending an ambitious novel well--or an ambitious essay--or anything else ambitious for that matter. Perhaps Dale can shed some light on that. For my money the ending of this one and THE ENGLISH PATIENT are both tremendous, though there has been some disagreement here on that, too. I felt both endings shot off into the realm of poetry--great poetry, that is. (Nothing, and I mean nothing, can quite equal the lousiness of lousy poetry.) Your pal, Steve 4/14/96 5:25PM CT =============== Reply 18 of Note 24 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/14 From: AJXR61A MARK IWANAGA Time: 7:36 PM I have just spent a very enjoyable period of time reading all the posts about The Shipping News, and was moved to post here for the first time. When I started reading it I, too, wondered if the rules of sentence structure had been thrown out and nobody told me. I did get used to it after a while, but found myself mentally rewriting sentences and saying to myself, "It would have worked just as well the "correct" way." I also wondered once or twice if it was a gimmick. I don't read many "modern" books--I prefer character building and delightful complexities to what passes for literature today. But I'm glad I read this. It was full of hope--always a welcome theme. I thought the knot descriptions were brief gems of wisdom, and went deeper than just string-tying. (Also think that perhaps the same feeling I got from this book could have been found in the Ashley Book of Knots instead.) Glad I read it and found out what all the fuss is about.. Carole in Ca. =============== Reply 19 of Note 24 =================  
To: AJXR61A MARK IWANAGA Date: 04/14 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 9:43 PM Carole, so nice to hear from you there in that strange kingdom called California! Your phrase "what passes for literature today" is a perfect echo of something in one of the my very early postings that I hung on this bulletin board. I know exactly how you feel. On the other hand, I have had to eat those words to some extent, as a result of these people here. There still is some wonderfully entertaining literary fiction out there. I am ashamed to say that I needed a little help finding it. As far as character building and complexity, for example, I am starting to think, as I read more and more of her, that I would stack Anita Brookner up against almost anyone. Yet she is an author that I would never have read in a thousand years had I not had the benefit of the views of these people, albeit in this somewhat unsatisfactory venue. (Would much rather they all lived next door so I could argue with them on my deck in the middle of the barbecue smoke.) Now, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, have you tried THE ENGLISH PATIENT by Michael Ondaatje? Your pal, Steve 4/14/96 8:41PM CT =============== Reply 20 of Note 24 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/15 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 1:04 AM Carole, As an addendum to Esq. Warbasse's remarks, have you considered the work of Cormac McCarthy? --Marty in Memphis, who is sure that he can get someone else to add something here about one of McCarthy's books with only a little pleading. =============== Reply 21 of Note 24 =================  
To: AJXR61A MARK IWANAGA Date: 04/15 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 1:59 AM Carole,and other SN readers, First, welome to CR, Carole. Hope you'll post again soon. I read THE SHIPPING NEWS last March. In fact, I was in the middle of it when I was visited by our lovely gail. She spied it on the untidy pile of newspapers magazines and books that completely obscures the surface of our coffee table and gave a special nod of approval. This theme of the knots reminds me of my days as a Girl Scout Leader when we all tied ourselves to our neighbor in a ring with what was supposed to be square knot. Then, very dubiously on my part, we all leaned back. The square knots were not supposed to give. Only if we had a granny-tier in the bunch would we fall over backwards. It worked!!! (Only later did I find the granny knot that held.) Back to business. I was afraid this knot thing would get a little too precious, but AP manages to pull it off. Although I do think she teeters close to the edge of the precipice. Knots make me think of a lot of things: the lessons we learn in life, the twists and turns we follow in life, the complicated intertwinings of our relations with others, the complicated intertwinings of coincidental events. I reflect on the way we weave all of this together as we fabricate our lives; with a series of good square knots to hold us secure, a bowline or two to hold us safe to our moorings, a few half-hitches that we can get ourselves out of in a hurry, a splice when nothing else will do and a big helping of grannies sprinkled along the way. I thought the ending was lovely. It restores the soul to read a book with an upbeat ending which doesn't seem cobbled on. It was a bit of a stretch to believe in Quoyle's rapid improvement as a writer, but not one too long for a good hemp rope or too difficult to reach for this reader. For some reason I didn't want to read this book until several people here praised it so highly. Now, it tops my list so far this year and is going to be hard to beat. Ruth, in the Inland Empire =============== Reply 22 of Note 24 =================  
To: AJXR61A MARK IWANAGA Date: 04/15 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 9:15 PM greetings CAROLE... and WELCOME TO OUR COMMUNITY OF CR's....kindly feel free to post and share your reading appetites with all....we hunger for new recommendations.... also drift over to THE SALON when you have any other posts not relating to books...and where do you that large state of CALIFORNIA... gail.. a passionate reader in glorious SAN FRANCISCO... =============== Reply 23 of Note 24 =================  
To: AJXR61A MARK IWANAGA Date: 04/15 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 10:15 PM Carole--Glad you decided to post and hope you continue to do so! I too was worried about the possible cuteness of the knots, but actually I thought she did a good job of making them fit, not be too oblique, but also not too "precious"...can't remember whose word that was, but it's perfect for when those devices fail. Barb =============== Reply 24 of Note 24 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 04/15 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 10:15 PM Ruth, Love your paragraph about makes me understand why you're a poet. Interesting that we both had this sense of not wanting to read THE SHIPPING NEWS...even after all the praise, its presence on the slo-mo list was probably the only thing that persuaded me. What a nice surprise it was! Barbara =============== Reply 25 of Note 24 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 04/16 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 11:00 PM Gail, thanks very much for taking the trouble to pass on the info on Annie Proulx; it satisified some of the curiosity I had about her. (Including just how her last name is pronounced; I was saying it mentally as "prowlks" but knew that couldn't be right.) Whenever I read an inter- esting work of fiction I want to know something about the author, and I especially appreciated your doing this bit of research for us. Before I go any further: the next book I'll be reading is my own nomination on the list: REFINER'S FIRE by Mark Helprin. This is a thickish sort of volume, and though I know it's in print it may not be easy for everyone to find. So I'll allow more time than usual before starting off a discussion. (Translated: I'll need a good while to read it myself.) All right then, as to THE SHIPPING NEWS. Finished it a few days ago. Positive reaction, on the whole. Really just one sticking point. Sentence fragments. Lots of 'em. Very irritating at first. Read three-quarters of the book before getting used to them. Much less jarring toward the end, but always noticed them. Okay, so that was a cheap shot, but I had to get it out of my system. Apart from this, I enjoyed Proulx' writing a great deal, which made them all the more annoying. I'll concede that this choppy prose was suited to the novel's mood, but for my money a less heavy dose would have done quite as well. Of course, I have a decided prejudice against this sort of stylistic mannerism, much preferring "transparent" prose to any kind that calls attention to itself. (A quick riffle through EAP's other books, POSTCARDS and HEART SONGS, shows that she adopted this device for this novel -- and I for one hope *only* for this novel. I found enough to like in TSN to want to read her further.) But I kept reading on in spite of this continual annoyance, and in the end decided the effort was worth it. The last two-thirds of the book did not meet the expec- tations I had after reading the opening chapters, luckily. Those were of a dark comic novel that ends with none of the characters any wiser for their experiences. (The novel that kept coming to mind was A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES.) Certainly I had no hope for the hapless Quoyle, who is quite the most antiheroic protagonist I can remember coming across in my reading. Watching him bumble his way through the early chapters was trying; I kept thinking things like, "Is this what the whole book will be like?" and "Please, let this guy buy a clue, do *something* right!" That Quoyle eventually does learn a thing or two and manage to build a life in a place he comes to feel he belongs is one of the more satisfying things about TSN; something that repays the struggle of reading the first chapters. (I'd be willing to bet that there have been more than a few people who picked up TSN solely because of its Pulitzer Prize and threw it down soon thereafter, utterly exasperated with Quoyle. Not to mention those incomplete sentences.) Its hopeful ending, in particular, was far from what I might have pre- dicted on the basis of TSN's first 80 or so pages. More to come.... Allen =============== Reply 26 of Note 24 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 04/16 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 11:01 PM More than any other author I've encountered on the reading list (though I think McCarthy runs her a close second) Annie Proulx is fond of peculiar words. So much so that just a little ways into the book I started writing down the ones I'd never seen before on a bookmark, and wound up with 30 in all. I was able to find a dozen in the dictionary, but have puzzling over a number of others. Early in the novel (page 2) EAP describes Quoyle as having a head shaped like a "crenshaw." I only know this as the surname of a noted professional golfer, so I still have no idea what Quoyle's head resembled. Kind of a low blow, I think, to use something so obscure for so basic a function as picturing a novel's main character. A number of the odd words in TSN seem to be localisms: both "gansey" and a "rodney" are types of boats (alas, no telling just what they look like), "screech" seems to be slang for cheap wine (or some sort of alcoholic beverage that comes in gallon jugs); "tuckamore" is evidently the rough, rocky terrain near the water's edge, and I guess "slindger" means an old fisherman, though I can't be sure. Others that seem to be regional, that I couldn't get (I was too lazy to note the page they occurred) are ruvid, roky, stookawn, yaffle, thunge, drenty, sough, turr, pelm and glutch. "Sishy" is one of many odd words that EAP uses in describing the sea, and the impression I get is that it's an original coinage -- onomatopoeia meant to evoke the sound of the sea splashing against the shore. Of course, I guessed wrong on "screak", used for the sound of a knife scraping against a plate; I was pretty sure that this was a Proulxian portmanteau of "scrape" and "squeak", but it turns out to be a proper word of Scandinavian origin, meaning "screech" or "creak." Obscure though many of the words in TSN may be, I have to admit they suit the mood and setting of the story, so I don't begrudge her indulging in them any where nearly as much as I dislike those you-know-whats. Any help that anyone can offer by way of clearing up any of these little mysteries will be much appreciated. If I remember to take that bookmark to the library with me when I return TSN I may look up a few myself. Allen =============== Reply 27 of Note 24 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 04/17 From: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Time: 0:05 AM Allen I was all set to pop in and tell you that a "crenshaw" is a type of melon -- that's what I assumed when I read the sentence. But, compulsive fact checker that I am, I decided to look it up before I posted. THE GOOD EARTH (one of my veggie reference books) gives the melon spelling as "cranshaw," but I found neither spelling in the dictionary. So now, either we both don't know what Quoyle's head looked like, or Annie mispelled the melon. Peggy =============== Reply 28 of Note 24 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 04/17 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 0:10 AM Allen: My career as a lexicographer was tragically aborted by a war and a marriage. I do know, however that a "crenshaw" is a variety of melon in addition to being the name of a golfer. Many years ago, 'Golf Digest' published a cover story on young Ben Crenshaw, then a nascent Arnie Palmer cum Jack Nicklaus. It titled the spread: "Is This The Year of the Crenshaw?" And ever after I've wondered, when will it be the 'year of the casaba." On some of the others: screech is defined as a 'drunkard' in the Dictionary of American Slang, so 'wine' may be right on; rodney is defined in OED as a coal mine, or a loafer (go figure the two together); ruvid, in the OED: rough, tough and barbaric; rokey means foggy, in the OED; yaffle, in the OED is a bark, yelp or cry of a woodpecker; thunge is a loud, hollow sound (OED again); turr is to butt, as a ram (OED); and isn't 'sough' the sound the wind makes in a sylven glade? As for the rest, you're on your own. As I tell the kids: look it up! Best, Dick in Alaska who ran out of dictionaries =============== Reply 29 of Note 24 =================  
To: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Date: 04/17 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 1:58 AM Peggy & Allen: Well, gosh, I thought it was a melon. But even my Encyclopedia of Gardening draws a blank -- maybe it's a kind of knot? Dick in Alaska, abashed at possible failure =============== Reply 30 of Note 24 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 04/17 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 9:21 AM Allen, I know I've heard of a Crenshaw melon, so I looked it up--in a cookbook. THE NEW BASICS cookbook defines it this way: "The Crenshaw melon is large and oval with tapered ends. The skin is golden when ripe." So I expect Quoyle's head was large and oval (with tapered ends? Where are a head's ends?) I doubt if he was golden, but he might have been ripe. Sherry in Milwaukee =============== Reply 31 of Note 24 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 04/17 From: AJXR61A MARK IWANAGA Time: 8:25 PM What a friendly bunch I've found myself in! I just posted my two cents' worth about The Shipping News, and didn't expect a reaction at all. But thank you for the warm welcome, and now try to get rid of me... I will look up Cormac McCarthy and Anita Brookner. Have heard of the latter, but not the former. I am always looking for recommendations. Now I have one. My favorite author (currently) is Sarah Orne Jewett. She wrote a novel, The Country of Pointed Firs, but I think her real talent comes through in her collection of short stories. (There's only one novel and one collection. She wasn't very prolific, to my everlasting regret.) For putting the reader RIGHT THERE in a setting, during a time, with characters, I believe she is one of the best. Right now I'm just starting a Dorothy Dunnett novel. But may forego that, since I have The Hamlet by Faulkner from the library for the second time and I WILL read it this time! Why does life have to interrupt reading???? Carole in San Mateo, Ca (rain!) =============== Reply 32 of Note 24 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 04/17 From: FDLX59B MARY ANNE PAPALE Time: 8:44 PM Allen, Thank you for the bit on sentence fragments. You have my nomination for the next Pulitzer. Your reference to choppy prose puts me once again in a nautical frame of mind, i.e., choppy waters. And then there's the names Wavey and Alvin Yark (yar) to make us think nautically. The names, in fact, are amazing. There's Bunny, Sunshine, Petal Bear, the Jack, Dennis and Beety Buggit, Tert Card, Nutbeem, Billy Pretty, and Herry. AEP also did this "name thing" in POSTCARDS with Loyal Blood, who deserted the rest of the Blood family. Mary Anne


E. Annie Proulx

Quoyle seems to have raised everyone's hackles; perhaps Gail could ask Ms. Proulx if that was what she intended. The more I think about it, the more I think she was intentionally depicting a despicable man, essentially at the mercy of, and prey to, the women of the story. His damnation and his salvation were all creations of the women in the book, and had precious little to do with Quoyle, who is a monument to moral, emotional and physical passivity.
Dick in Alaska
Now Quoyle is a hero I can get into...forget Michael K!! Here's a guy who sure as hell doesn't have much going for him, except goodness of heart and perseverance; who makes good.
Robert Avery
As to the language style, I liked it and thought it fit with the people it was describing. Reading it was definitely an acquired skill and that was my impression as to why it got easier as the book went on. Often she was capturing so much in so few words that I had to make myself go back and read it again.

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