The Shipping News
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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.
Read an Excerpt
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... see more
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Reading Group Guide
- 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