My Shipping News
Vessels abound this Labour Day Weekend in the blue waters between Gabriola Island and the Sunshine Coast. It is bare foot tank top hot, the air calm, the sea rippled, the hazy sky sprayed in low white clouds. Definitely gorgeous. But also definitely dangerous. The combination of motion, sunlight, wind, waves and sound on water can impair a boater’s judgement.
I’m creating my own little "Shipping News", watching the sailboats drift by soundlessly, the fisher folk relax into their lines, kayakers slip amongst the seals, while the ferries cruise businesslike up Fairway Channel towards Nanaimo. No PWCs here, no water-skiiers flanking souped-up power boats. This is a sensible stretch of water. Of course, I don’t have the inside story--I’m only a casual observer. I'm no Quoyle gathering stories for the Gammybird.
Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News is high on my list of all-time favourite books. Not sure if it’s the locale, the coastal village of Killick-Claw in Newfoundland, or Quoyle himself, an antihero whose struggle with life and love drives the story. Certainly the mythologizing of such things as sailor’s knots intrigues me. Annie Proulx acknowledged that “without the inspiration of Clifford W. Ashley's wonderful 1944 work, The Ashley Book of Knots, which I had the good fortune to find at a yard sale for a quarter, this book would have remained just a thread of an idea."
But, more than likely it’s in the writing itself, the words, the images, the details: the headlines buddy Billy Pretty creates as he struggles to teach Quoyle to write news copy; the justice in the Aunt’s quiet revenge, the creepiness of the House at Quoyle’s Point which has a mind all its own.
Ah, now I’m going to have to read this book yet again--just thinking about it makes me feel good.