Thursday, June 4, 2009

THE SHIPPING NEWS by Annie Proulx (re-read)

More than anything else, I am happy to report that this is the second book that I have finished in four and a half days. I don't want to jinx myself or anything, but it may very well be that after a l-o-o-o-n-g bout of inability to read brought about by chemo brain... maybe the fog is lifting. I plowed through FIND ME, and I read THE SHIPPING NEWS in just a day and a half. This is exciting. This feels like... well, the old me.

I first read THE SHIPPING NEWS when it won the Pulitzer back in 1993. The nine-year-later re-read felt fresh and new. I remembered so little. I remembered the sad-sack Quoyle relocating his family to the old family home in Newfoundland. I remembered his job writing the shipping news at the Gunny Bird. I remembered the aunt, vaguely. And the two troublesome daughters. But mostly I remembered the house.

I'd forgotten how bleak the book is. I re-read it to prepare for my own summer adventures in Newfoundland, and now I am beset with worries about blood-draining black flies and roads that lead nowhere. I'd forgotten that while Quoyle is a champ of a father, he's struggles just to be a man. I'd forgotten how untamed the book made Newfoundland feel-- a place of reckless drunks, incestuous families, and small-minded folk.

I didn't forget that I loved the book when I first read it. And I am no less enchanted by it now. It's so spare. So echoes the close, sparse journalism that Quoyle writes. I am charmed by the space that the book dedicates to rumor and lore. The fact that Proulx allows characters to meander through stories and legends, that she devotes pages upon pages to stuff that only casts character onto the place and doesn't necessarily advance the story.

I've not read anything else by Proulx, but now, knowing she lives part time in Newfoundland, I will seek more out.

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