The Shipping News

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The Shipping News

by Annie Proulx

Scribner | June 1, 1994 | Trade Paperback

3.8235 out of 5 rating. 17 Reviews
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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Anne 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 deserts. 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.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 352 pages, 3.32 × 2.17 × 0.35 in

Published: June 1, 1994

Publisher: Scribner

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0671510053

ISBN - 13: 9780671510053

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Reviews

– More About This Product –

The Shipping News

by Annie Proulx

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 352 pages, 3.32 × 2.17 × 0.35 in

Published: June 1, 1994

Publisher: Scribner

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0671510053

ISBN - 13: 9780671510053

Read from the Book

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
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From the Publisher

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Anne 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 deserts. 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.

About the Author

E. Annie Proulx "I am the oldest of five girls. I was born in Connecticut in 1935, where my mother''s English ancestors -- farmers, mill workers, inventors, artists -- have lived for 350 years. My father''s Franco-Canadian grandparents came to New England in the 1860s to work in the woolen mills. My father was in the textile business and we moved frequently when I was a child as he worked his way up the executive ladder. I suspect my intense and single-minded work habits stem from his example. My mother is a painter and amateur naturalist, and from her I learned to see and appreciate the natural world, to develop an eye for detail, and to tell a story. There is a strong tradition of oral storytelling in my mother''s family and, as a child, I heard thousands of tales and adventures made out of nothing more substantial than the sight of a man digging clams, an ant moving a straw, an empty shoe. "I''ve lived in Vermont for more than three decades, studies history at the University of Vermont and Concordia University in Montreal. In hindsight, I recognize that learning to examine the lives of individuals against the longue duree of events was invaluable training for novel-writing. "There were few teaching jobs in history in the seventies, and I shifted from academic study to freelance journalism and for the next 15 years wrote articles on weather, apples, canoeing, mountain lions, mice, cuisine, libraries, African beadwork, cider, and lettuces for dozens of magazines. Whenever I
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From Our Editors

Delve into a lyrical, black comedy about third-rate newspaperman Quoyle's attempt to reclaim his life. Withdrawing with his two daughters to an inherited home in Newfoundland, Quoyle begins to see the possibilities of loving life again. The starkly stunning Newfoundland coast and a vibrant cast of locals all contribute to Quoyle's renewed sense of self. A touching portrait of three generations of an American family, this witty novel is engrossing from start to finish. E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award.

Editorial Reviews

Roz Spafford San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle Annie Proulx''s stunning, big-hearted The Shipping News thaws the frozen lives of its characters and warms readers.

Employee Review

It took me a while to catch on to the author's style of writing. It was as though she just jotted down her thoughts at random. She does this when you least expect it, and I found myself rereading those paragraphs until I got the hang of it. Newfoundlanders come alive in this story. You'll even discover how certain places in Newfoundland got their colorful names, and how a "burger" takes on a whole new meaning. A great book to read.

Bookclub 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.
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