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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The Shipping News

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful:

October 22, 2002


It's rare that I would ever recommend a movie over a book, but the movie of the Shipping News is far superior in my mind because the reader isn't subjected to Proulx's short, choppy prose. The movie also sticks close enough to the story of the book (though it chops out some unimportant stuff for time) that if you just watch it and don't bother with the book you really aren't missing anything. It's not that the movie was perfect either, but it's not as bad as the book.

The problems with the book are numerous. First is Proulx's overall writing style. Bad. Real bad. Choppy sentences. No flow. Author Ignores Basic Rules of Grammar. Looking at excerpts of her other books I have to assume this writing style was intentional, maybe to make it seem like an article from the Gammy Bird, but that technique would have made more sense if the story were told in first-person with Quoyle as the narrator. After a while her style just grated on me and more importantly it kept me from really getting into the book. The story, even the characters were decent enough that I would have enjoyed the book had it been written in complete sentences.

I also never understood a few things. Why doesn't Quoyle have a first name? Everywhere he goes he just introduces himself as "Quoyle". Who does that? If I go somewhere and meet someone for the first time I say, "Hi, my name is BJ Fraser." I don't say, "Hi, I'm Fraser." It's revealed after a while that his first initials are R.G., so his name is probably Bob or something equally anonymous that there's no need to go to great lengths to keep it secret. Also, why does he always refer to Agnis Hamm as "the aunt"? Maybe it's because I have several aunts, but I say "Aunt Mary" or "Aunt Jane" not "the aunt". It could just be the way people from New York or Newfoundland talk, I wouldn't really know.

The area I think the movie really excels over the book is that the movie plays up the relationship between Quoyle and Wavey Prowse a little more. It never seemed to go anywhere in the book, nor did I really care because Wavey sounded like an unattractive bore anyway. Also, I liked the last sentence of narration in the movie where Quoyle says (though I can't quote it exactly): "if a drowning man can come back to life, , then I believe a broken man can be healed." That really sums up the whole point of the book and movie, a great way to end things. Better than the end line of the book, which I can't remember at all.

Chalk up "The Shipping News" as another Pulitzer dud but also another screen gem.

1 comment:

tamarapaulin said...

Hi - I came via SLC Kismet.

Ugh - The Shipping News. This book actually put me off of reading for a few years.