The Shipping News

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The Shipping News

by Annie Proulx

Scribner | June 1, 1994 | Trade Paperback

The Shipping News is rated 3.8235 out of 5 by 17.
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 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.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 352 pages, 8.44 × 5.5 × 0.9 in

Published: June 1, 1994

Publisher: Scribner

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0671510053

ISBN - 13: 9780671510053

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 1 out of 5 by from Yuck Okay, I don't know why I keep trying to like stuff like this, but I really should stop. And this should be my warning sign. This book is so full of that special dish that so many horrible authors keep serving that I can't believe some readers keep lining up for another helping. It is called GARBAGE! Trite, naval gazing, chest beating, woe-is-me stuff that should be thrown as hard as it can into the trash can.
Date published: 2013-06-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Didn't love it I was excited to read this since it was a pulitizer winner, but I did not really enjoy it. It just didn't grip me and it's a bit melancholy so you need to be in the right mood to read this.
Date published: 2012-01-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Better as a movie? So I bought this book online at chapters because it was really cheap. It also said it won the Pulitzer Prize. I thought to myself, 'why not?' and bought it. When I received the book and saw the cover, I realized it had been made into a movie. I never knew that and I haven't seen the movie yet. So I start reading the book. It took awhile to get into it and get used to the author's style. I can't say I like it all that much. It's very disjointed. I understand that the style is important to the story and its portrayal, but it is hard to get used to. It's an interesting story of this man who basically lets everyone walk all over him, including his two-timing (or maybe six- or seven-timing) wife and family. After the death of his parents and then his wife, he moves to Newfoundland with his two daughters and old aunt to start a new life. Pretty cool, huh? I thought so. The back of the book said that he begins to see the possibility of love without pain or misery. I was really looking forward to this transformation. It wasn't until I was two-thirds of the way through the book that I realized that this transformation hadn't really started at all. His love interest didn't get much further than thoughts of passion and coy looks, moments of silence and people's comments. So now what? All I could think was that this book would be better as a movie. It would probably flow better and the author did a great job of developing an image. I was extremely disappointed in the ending. I felt like it should have gone further and moved quicker or something. What can I say about this book? It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. I'm looking forward to see the movie - maybe it will be a bit more entertaining. Plus it has Kevin Spacey and Julianne Moore in it.
Date published: 2011-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing. Phenomenal writing, amazing story.
Date published: 2011-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Book This is an amazing book. The writing is wonderful, the characters seem so real you feel you know them and you get a real feel for the place and time. I highly recommend this book.
Date published: 2007-11-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worthy of the Hype... The Shipping News is consistently shocking, and keeps you entertained until the very last page. Proulx does a great job of convincing you that you know where the story is going, then takes it an entirely different way. Her style of writing is interesting, intense, but easy to read, and makes for a very interesting story of love, loss, and community.
Date published: 2006-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Headline: Man reads good book! Annie Proulx dishes out a delicious yarn set in the Canadian East coast. A must read. One of the best books I've read in a long, long time.
Date published: 2003-08-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Glorious After his marriage fails Quoyle makes the decision to move to Newfoundland because he is a failure every-where else. The environment he has chosen is not hospitable and the only job he can get as a journalist is reporting the shipping movements. This perpetual loser does, however, find a niche in this desolate corner of the world and Proulx weaves an acceptable plot around him and the other characters that she creates with such skill. It is Proulx' writing that makes this such an outstanding work, the prose is a pleasure to read, the characters make you feel you know them and the description makes you believe you live there. Now made into a film that is almost as good.
Date published: 2003-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Everything always works out During my second year of university I read Annie Proulx's book and was amazed. She sure captures Newfoundland and it wonderful amazing people.
Date published: 2001-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Newfoundland Joy One of the best books I've read in years. The wordsmithing is 1st class. Visual images of life in a small village in Newfoundland is both heartwarming and poignant. The characters jump out of the pages at you. Highly recommend reading this novel.
Date published: 2000-12-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Waterloo under the bridge It saddens me to hear a review like John from Waterloo. I mean aside from his book review the comment pertaining to Newfoundlanders being of no benefit to Canadian society is so disheartening..but kind of amusing. Does John base this on random encounters with Newfs or just one particular situation with a newfoundlander(my guess is they didn't enjoy having his high horse around all the time) Save the balloon juice please. "Lack of brains sure is a pleasure to some"
Date published: 2000-12-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Shipping News This book was a great read. No doubt about it - I highly recommend it. However, I am from Newfoundland, and I feel the need to respond to the comments made by John from Waterloo (see below). Its true, through history, many Newfoundlanders have struggled through tough economic times, but through their perseverance and strength of character have prevailed. Newfoundland today is a beautiful place as it has always been, with one of the lowest crime rates in Canada and boasts one of the countries fastest growing economies. This book is not meant to be an attack on Newfoundlanders. It is about a character and his struggles, and those of the characters he meets while in Newfoundland. It is a great book, and a great story! But as for Newfoundland - don't judge the book by its cover.
Date published: 2000-04-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Shipping News This book is well-crafted and cogently organized. It must be excellent given that it struck such a strong nerve with Tina from Newfoundland. In fact, Annie Proulx did do exensive research for this novel. Furthermore, Tina has no business complaining about the depiction of Newfoundlanders. Newfoundland has been shaped by poverty, unemployment, and crime. The average Newfoundlander is of no benefit to Canadian society, and this should be well made known, as Proulx has expertly done. It's amusing to see people like Tina get their backs up against the wall over such an accurate description. Well done, Annie Proulx!
Date published: 1999-12-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Shipping News This is a book of hope. It helps the readers to see that no matter how much we may stumble through life, if our heart is more or less in the right place, things will eventually turn out all right.
Date published: 1999-10-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from The Shipping News As a Newfoundlander, I must say I was bored and mildly insulted by this book. Proulx didn't research, and based her novel on ignorant assumptions about Newfies. Not everyone here has been sexually abused, and not everyone is stupid or uneducated. The story begins as a big, dumb American named Quoyle loses his wife, and brings his family to a small outport to begin a new life, At first I felt bad for our misshapen hero, but then I just got annoyed with him. There's no real story, just a passage of days as they adjust to their new surroundings.
Date published: 1999-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Poetic Book This is one of the top three books I have ever read. The descriptive words will honestly take your breath away. It's beautifully written and a lovely story of hope and optimism.
Date published: 1999-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect Introduction This novel will always remind me of my first date with a wonderful man. We went to select a new novel for me to read while I recovered from the extraction of my wisdom teeth. He selected this for me, with the warning that if I did not enjoy it, he would be disappointed. He's not disappointed, and neither am I. Thank you, love, for giving me such fantastic advice. Could you call this novel the perfect first date novel? I can.
Date published: 1999-04-30

– More About This Product –

The Shipping News

by Annie Proulx

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 352 pages, 8.44 × 5.5 × 0.9 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 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.

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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