Shipping News

Choppy prose, patting a child on the top of her head. Like wind stealing the aroma off a cup of tea on its way to the lips. That uncle nobody talks about. That cousin you wish nobody would ever talk about. Subtle glances exchanged between best friends forever. A radically improbable plot, like so many other things that don't matter at all.

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx (1993) is a delight, a fast read, a book about not much or maybe everything. Sin and redemption, hope and forgiveness. An archetypal scene near the end of chapter 14 ("Wavey"). Two lonely people meet:

Before he started the station wagon the tall woman, Wavey, came to mind. He looked down the road both ways to see if she was walking. Sometimes she went to the school at noon. He thought, maybe to help in the lunch room. Didn't see her. But as he came up over the rise and in sight of Jack's house, there she was, striding along and swinging a canvas bag. He pulled up, glad she was alone, that he was too.

It was books: she worked in the school library twice a week, she said. Her voice somewhat hoarse. She sat straight, feet nearly side by side. They looked at each other's hands, proving the eye's affinity for the ring finger; both saw gold. Knew at least one thing about each other.

Silence, the sea unfolding in places. A skiff and bobbing dory, men leaning to reset a cod trap. Quoyle glanced, saw her pale mouth, neck, eyes somewhere between green glass and earth color. Rough hands. Not so young; heading for forty. But that sense of harmony with something, what, the time or place. He didn't know but felt it. She turned her head, caught him looking. Eyes flicked away again. But both were pleased.

And later, in chapter 30: "The road shone under a moon like a motorcycle headlight." And, "If life was an arc of light that began in darkness, ended in darkness, the first part of his life had happened in ordinary glare. Here it was as though he had found a polarized lens that deepened and intensified all seen through it."

And so much more ...

^z - 2018-08-22