Format: Trade Paperback
Dimensions: 352 pages, 3.32 × 2.17 × 0.35 in
Published: June 1, 1994
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Reading Group Discussion Points
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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
- 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?
- 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