E. Annie Proulx won the 1993 National Book Award and the 1994 Pulitzer Prize with her novel The Shipping News (Simon & Schuster, 1993), about awkward and oafish hero, Quoyle, and his unconventional path to a "normal" life that is anything but normal.
I'd seen this book in my parents' house before--seen it, started reading it, and put it down shortly afterward. Supposedly for lack of relating to its plot. Quoyle, a bumbling, ungainly newspaperman with two daughters, named "Bunny" and "Sunshine," moves to Newfoundland, the place of his ancestors. He travels with his aunt, Agnis Hamm (played in the film adaptation by Dame Judi Dench). What commences is a saga of boat-building, writing about boats, sinking boats, and learning to tie knots--both figuratively and literally--with people, rope, and places. The Shipping News is spectacular. A story for the ages. It's just so damn hard to picture sometimes, even with Proulx's inventive, perfectly chosen descriptions. Water--the ocean, the shorelines, waves and bays and icebergs and even water in teacups--the essence of water becomes....deeper, truer, more real. Proulx is amazing.
If you head to "RECS" at the top of the page, you'll see that I've noted a book called "The Novel Cure," which pointed out The Shipping News as the book to cure low self-esteem.
HINT TO THE READER: MY SELF ESTEEM HAS BEEN LOW.
Throw me a pity party, bring the balloons, I've been hungry for a dose of outside approval. Make me a cake of it. Bleh.
Oy vey, right? I'll cry me a river and dive into it. Or not. Maybe I'll learn to just fight though the low parts of life. Which is what you have to do. When life throws you oysters, make beer with them. (Look up: Marshall's Wharf Brewery, Belfast, Maine). Sidenote: I've had oysters once in my life, and they only "tasted" good because I ate them too fast to actually taste them.
Anyway, please refer to the quote on the side of this webpage. Words from Aunt Agnis, i.e.: Judi Dench.
Did you read it? Good. And this is what the main character, Quoyle, thinks of saying to Agnis, in response:
Sure, get over it, thought Quoyle. Ten-cent philosophy. She didn't know what he had been through. Was going through.
Well he was going through the death of his wife and being a single parent.
Quoyle had married a hooker, back in New York. The hooker, Petal, (played in the film by Cate Blanchette), had had better sex with Quoyle than she'd ever had in her life, and Quoyle had such low self-esteem before Petal, that...well, he was in love. (So both of them were happy, at least at the beginning). But Petal ran off two years after they ceremony, and eventually died in a car wreck. (How fortuitous--not really--that Quoyle later ends up writing about, yes, car wrecks, at The Gammy Bird newspaper in Newfoundland).
He wrote about car wrecks because his boss told him to. ("You might have to make something up--to fill space," he was told). Oh, and he was told to write "the shipping news," or: which boats came into the harbor and which boats went out. The shipping news. In Newfoundland, there are basically five things: ocean, rock, boats, fish, and...boats. (Number six: a few people).
So he did it. He had two daughters he needed to provide for. He had a history of fear and low self-esteem. But he did it, he survived and made a life in a place where 40 degrees is warm and "cod cheeks" are always on the menu. Anyway, I'm not going to tell you how he made it. So read the book.
Moral of the story is, though: you don't give up. No matter what you feel like, what you did or didn't do, or what may have happened to you, you just don't give up.
That would sound a lot better if I were quoting something from the book. Agnis almost did. With that quote from above. But anyway, it's just me saying it, and really I'm saying it to myself. Don't give up. Keep fighting. So. Reader. No rivers being cried today. Just gonna go on a drive and visit an old friend now.
Cheers. See you next week.
Next week's book: Being a Rockefeller, Becoming Myself (by Eileen Rockefeller, published 2013). It's a memoir.