Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Books read in Chincoteague (6 of 7): The Shipping News

arlier in this week of reading I very quickly judged a book to be not-my-type. The same could have happened with The Shipping News, but for the fact that Annie Proulx's writing style (unique, fragmented thought-blows of sentences) drew me in, the hope that things would improve for Quoyle, our protagonist, and the knowledge that the book did pick up in mood after the first few chapters. It was well worth it, and that very same point winds up being the heart of the book.

The early descriptions of Quoyle make him out to be a lumbering clod, barely capable of speech, unattractive in every way, making the reader feel the self-loathing of a young man lost in a highly critical world. As he begins to let his voice be heard, more of his own character comes out, slowly and painfully, and the story moves forward as we get to know him and he gets to know himself. While the beginning of the book is one calamity after another, Quoyle sticks with it and keeps plodding along, going where the winds take him until his fortunes right themselves.

spring, flowers, blossoms, tree, DC, Frederickboats, masts, harbor, marina, Eastport, Annapolis, cloudsshed, collection, yard, oddities, weird, carebears, barney

Once I was inside this world, I stopped wanting to leave. One of my favourite quirks in the book is Quoyle's habit of creating impromptu newspaper headlines about the world around him ("Man with Hangover Listens to Boat Builder Project Variables"). There was also the warmth of the closeknit community in the Northern reaches, the intriguing history and mystery of each character and the town, even an abandoned village on a desolate island. I made a point of never checking the publication date on Shipping News, because it sits fairly happily in the near-present, comfortably familiar and nonspecific. Come to think of it, this was probably my favourite book of the week.
"There are four women in every man's heart. The Maid in the Meadow, the Demon Lover, the Stouthearted Woman, the Tall and Quiet Woman."

1 comment:

  1. Now I've got to read it again since I remember mostly the feelings I have about books and the characters and not so much the plot.