Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

I don't appear to be genetically created to appreciate literary award winners. The Shipping News won the Pulitzer prize after all and yet I found it... boring, honestly. Okay, I am glad that I read it now that I'm done. But it was not a book I enjoyed reading. I can understand why it was award winning when it comes to novelty of style and setting the stage for the plot. But the plot itself is just not very interesting.

The story of The Shipping News revolves around a single father, Quoyle, who finding himself at loose ends moves with his aunt and his two young daughters to a small village in Newfoundland. Although he has never been there before his family is from there and still owns property in the area. Quoyle is an accidental journalist who becomes involved in the town's life while writing the news of the boats coming in and out of port.

Proulx has a unique writing style. At least half of her sentences are fragments. They evoke distinct imagery and the purpose of her style is clear. Yet if 90% of writers tried to emulate Proulx's writing they would be kicked out of school for poor use of language. While I appreciate the idea behind her voice I personally did not find it engaging to read. As a book lover I found it discouraging that every five pages I was more inclined to set the book down and find something else to do rather than keep reading. Last night I had to force myself to focus just to get through the final 30 pages of the story. It is rare that I am that unengaged in a book. Once again I am guessing I am alone in my views on this book. Friends raved about it and gave it to me encouragingly. Other reviews I have seen give it an overwhelming thumbs up. Maybe I just need to realize that I don't appreciate "novelty" and "literary qualities" in my book reading.

I am glad I read The Shipping News. I gave it points for uniqueness and novelty of voice. But the story itself just never caught my attention. To me plot overrides writing style. What can I say, I guess I'm just an action-oriented girl.


cathy said...

I find it funny that you're an action oriented book girl and yet you loved Elegance of the Hedgehog! :-) I'm one of those that loved this book. They can't all be winners for everyone, though!

g.n.a.t. said...

Hmm, good point. I don't know that I like action in a Terminator/Rambo sort of way. I just like to have more going on.
I also think Elegance of the Hedgehog spoke to a place and a time I love whereas I have no knowledge of boating or Newfoundland on which to base an interest.