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The Shipping Newsby E. Annie Proulx
Winner of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize
Winner of the 1993 National Book Award
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"The Shipping News tells the story of Quoyle, a hack journalist recovering from his wife's death and betrayal in his newly adopted (but actually ancestral) home, the Newfoundland village of Killick-Claw. Quoyle finds work writing for The Gammy Bird, the local paper whose editor cannily assigns his reporters stories reflecting their deepest fears. But Quoyle and his colleagues brave their bleak inner weather, winning our sympathies with their tenacity and humor. Proulx renders local color with warmth and wit, and her prose rivals Killick-Claw's weather for vigor." Reviewed by Daniel Weiss, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"The writing is charged with sardonic wit — alive, funny, a little threatening; packed with brilliantly original images...and, now and then, a sentence that simply takes your breath away." USA Today
"The Shipping News is alive in every sense of the word...Proulx has George Eliot's gift of loving observation — her vision is wise and generous." The Boston Globe
"The Shipping News is that rare creation, a lyric page-turner." Chicago Tribune
E. Annie Proulx focuses on a Newfoundland fishing town in a tale about a third-rate newspaperman and the women in his life-- his elderly aunt and two young daughters-- who decide to resettle in their ancestral seaside home. The transformation each of the character undergoes following move is profound. A vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary American family, "The Shipping News" enlightens readers to the powers of E. Annie Proulx's storytelling genius and her expert evocation of time and place. She is truly one of the most gifted and original writers in America today.
When Quoyle's two-timing wife meets her just desserts, he retreats with his two daughters to his ancestral home on the starkly beautiful Newfoundland coast, where a rich cast of local characters and family members all play a part in Quoyle's struggle to reclaim his life. As Quoyle confronts his private demons — and the unpredictable forces of nature and society — he begins to see the possibility of love without pain or misery.
A vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary North American family, The Shipping News shows why Annie Proulx is recognized as one of the most gifted and original writers in America today.
About the Author
Annie Proulx's The Shipping News won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the National Book Award for Fiction, and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. She is the author of two other novels: Postcards, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, and Accordion Crimes. She has also written two collections of short stories, Heart Songs and Other Stories and Close Range. In 2001, The Shipping News was made into a major motion picture. Annie Proulx lives in Wyoming and Newfoundland.
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