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- December 2, 2009 at 10:42 am #13797
This book was a recommendation on one of the side tabs and I couldn’t agree more heartily. Below is a Review from my Informal Unofficial Book Club Newsletter:
This has been a long time coming, Melissa. A long, long time ago, Melissa asked me about “The Shipping News” and I thought it was some kind of Yachting publication. I finally found out it was a book, read it and loved it. The reason it took so long to get to the Newsletter was that it was part of a Trilogy of these last three books (surprised?). The book begins with Quoyle’s marriage ending and, drowning in his own misery, his domineering Aunt takes charge and whisks them all off to the home of the Quoyle’s, a rugged little fishing town in Newfoundland. The town is one where everybody knows everybody and they all have tales of yore to tell. After Quoyle lands a job with the local newspaper, he soon becomes part of the big Family of Friends and Neighbors, and learns to Love again. The town has quite a few local characters that add quite a bit of humor and history to the story. Proulx gives marvelous descriptions of the area and makes it very easy to visualize the surroundings. Each chapter opens with a brief introduction, usually of some intricate knot used by sailors and fisherman (most often from “The Ashley Book of Knots”), which seem to hold some life secrets and, parallels the life changing events Quoyle is going through. As the story unfolds, we can see the gradual progress of Quoyle’s big heart opening up to Love, and becoming the man he has inside of him. Like the house he moves into, the characters in The Shipping News are stark and down-to-earth, struggling against the remoteness of their geography and the progress of technology into the old way of life. There are many themes in Proulx’s book and she guides you through them with depth and feeling. When his daughter wants to go to the “awake”, Wavey, Quoyle’s future wife, thought it was right for them to go. “Quoyle said that there had been too much death in the past year.” “But everything dies,” said Wavey. “There is grief and loss in life. They need to understand that. They seem to think death is just sleep. If they don’t know what death is how can they understand the deeper part of life? The seasons and nature and creation…” (recall again Disney’s light and shadows). He didn’t want her to get to God and religion, as she sometimes did. “Maybe,” said Wavey, “she has those nightmares because she is afraid of she sleeps she won’t wake up – like Petal and Warren and her grandparents. Besides, if you look at the departed you’ll never be troubled by the memory. It’s well known.” What is fascinating is how the town was relatively peaceful until the government and the law and the enforcers came (we’ll see more of this in “100 Years of Solitude”; yes, I’m finally reading it Nancies; yes, both). Also, the lore and local “mythologies” were often more accurate than the sciences. “The Black Swan”, like Chesterton, talks of Fables and Fairy Tales being more True and reliable than the fact-checked news. In “The Secret Life of Bees” the one slave’s Religion was described as a combination of Nature and Ancestor (Family) Worship, which was far better than the formal religions that refused black admittance (and worse). “We are all looking for ways to connect our Stories”. Proulx also wrote “Close Range: Wyoming Stories”, which contains “Brokeback Mountain”. Mike bought me the out-of -print “Book of Knots” and someday I am going to read it and do a knot tying demonstration at a Pack Meeting.
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