Connecticut’s Proulx

BB18 Connecticut USN
Creative Commons License photo credit: Marion Doss

For those of you who have read Proulx’s Pulitzer-winning The Shipping News (and if you haven’t, please do!), you may be thinking how well she brought to life the region of Newfoundland.  Or you may instead be thinking of how well she represented untamed Wyoming in Brokeback Mountain

Throughout this series I have struggled between choosing authors simply from the state versus works about the state.  And this week I’m choosing the former!  Proulx is truly remarkable in her ability to recreate a time and place…  Since I’ve only read The Shipping News thus far, I will focus on that work this week.

Creative Commons License photo credit: susteph

Here is Library Journal’s review:

Off the beaten track of contemporary American fiction in both style and setting, this remarkable second novel by the author of Postcards should capture the attention of readers and critics. Huge, homely Quoyle works off and on for a newspaper. His cheating wife Petal is killed in a car crash while abandoning him and their two preschool daughters. Wallowing in grief, Quoyle agrees to accompany his elderly aunt and resettle in a remote Newfoundland fishing village. Memorable characters–gay aunt Agnis, difficult daughter Bunny, new love interest Wavey, many colorful locals in their new hometown–combine with dark stories of the Quoyle family’s past and the staccato, often subjectless or verbless sentences (bound to make English teachers cringe) to create a powerful whole.

Sailboat Between Niantic and Long Island
Creative Commons License photo credit: Lynn Coulombe

And an excerpt from Chapter 1:

Quoyle: A coil of rope.

“A Flemish flake is a spiral coil of one layer only. It is made on deck, so that it may be walked on if necessary.”


Here is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate towns.

Hive-spangled, gut roaring with gas and cramp, he survived childhood; at the state university, hand clapped over his chin, he camouflaged torment with smiles and silence. Stumbled through his twenties and into his thirties learning to separate his feelings from his life, counting on nothing. He ate prodigiously, liked a ham knuckle, buttered spuds.

His jobs: distributor of vending machine candy, all-night clerk in a convenience store, a third-rate newspaperman. At thirty-six, bereft, brimming with grief and thwarted love, Quoyle steered away to Newfoundland, the rock that had generated his ancestors, a place he had never been nor thought to go.

A watery place. And Quoyle feared water, could not swim. Again and again the father had broken his clenched grip and thrown him into pools, brooks, lakes and surf. Quoyle knew the flavor of brack and waterweed.

Creative Commons License photo credit: susteph

Since my sister-in-law and her family live in Connecticut, I am fortunate to visit this gorgeous state at least once a year and Proulx is a worthy representative!

Curious about what states we’ve done so far and which ones are on deck?

Photo by marxchivist

First, from Melanie Jones:

  • Alabama: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (check out my To Kill A Mockingbird Sample Kit!)
  • Michigan: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides
  • Alaska: The Man Who Swam With Beavers by Nancy Lord
  • Arizona: The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
  • North Dakota: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
  • Vermont: The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • Hawaii: Heads by Harry by Lois-ann Yamanaka
  • Georgia: Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones
  • And I went out on my own for…

  • Florida: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Zeale Hurston
  • Minnesota: In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien
  • Wisconsin: When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton
  • Louisiana: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells (Jones’ pick) and The Awakening by Kate Chopin (my pick)
  • Colorado: Plainsong by Kent Haruf
  • Maryland: Anything by Anne Tyler
  • Georgia: Awakening by Kate Chopin
  • Ohio: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • Arkansas: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Virginia: John Grisham
  • Idaho: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  • North Carolina: Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
  • Tennesee: Run by Ann Patchett
  • New Jersey: Anything by Janet Ivanovich
  • Texas: Anything by Elmer Kelton
  • Wondering where your state is? Coming soon… In the meantime, weigh in on future picks!

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    11 Responses to Connecticut’s Proulx

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    10. Kim Maurutto says:

      I’ve lived in CT for 26 yrs. and have lived in the town of Glastonbury for the past 11 yrs. I’m a HUGE fan of E. Annie Proulx’s works and The Shipping News is, in fact, one of my top 5 all-time favorite books. That said, I think that Wally Lamb would be a far better author than Ms Proulx to represent CT. Mr. Lamb is not only a CT native but his works are, for the most part, set in CT. His characters also remind me of the working class people who live in this state.

      I would suggest either Mr. Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True or Wishin’ and Hopin’. I think that I Know This Much Is True especially captures the character of the state. The story is set in a fictional town but it’s eerily similar to the town of Norwich. The main characters are twin brothers, one with schizophrenia and the other who struggles with his own demons, though he is not schizophrenic. It’s a story about everyday people facing extraordinary circumstances.

    11. Kristen says:

      Thank you so much for your comment, Kim!! And thank you for reminding me that I’ve been meaning to read “I Know This Much Is True” for years… I agree with you that Proulx wasn’t a great fit for CT as far as her actual writing is concerned. My in-laws live in CT so I’ve come to love your home state as well!

      Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

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