International Guild of Knot Tyers

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

Simon & Schuster 1994 ISBN 9780671510053

Latest reprint

HarperCollins UK, 2012 ISBN 9780007386819

(F)ACTUALLY FICTION

Geoffrey BUDWORTH writes...

“And without the inspiration of Clifford W. Ashley’s wonderful 1944 work, the Ashley Book of Knots, which I had the good fortune to find in a yard sale for a quarter, this book would have remained just the thread of an idea.’’ So Ms Annie Proulx acknowledges one stimulus for her acclaimed second novel The Shipping News.

Reviewers quoted on the dust jacket describe it as ”...an irresistible, inspiring comedy of human life and possibilities ...inexhaustibly inventive....a stunning book, full of magic and potential.”

I couldn’t get into it. Shows how much I know. It won the Irish Times International fiction prize. Which is why Desmond Mandeville’s widow Norah saw it displayed by Hatchards book shop in London’s Piccadilly.

Anyway, all the chapter headings have pictures of knots and knotting quotations (mostly from Ashley). Indeed chapters 2, 3, 5, 8, 9 and 13 are entitled Love Knot, Strangle Knot, A Rolling Hitch, A Slippery Hitch, The Mooring Hitch and The Dutch Cringle. And the anti-hero is named Quoyle (“coil”)

Determined hunters of knotting curios may decide to add this book to their collections. The author lives in Vermont.

Lester Copestake writes (from the following KM)

This second notice arises from Geoffrey Budworth’s review of the wonderful book by E. Annie Proulx about life in Newfoundland called the Shipping News (A Touchstone Book, Simon & Schuster Inc 1994)

This is the book whose chapter headings are quoted with illustrations from knotting books mostly Ashley’s. I have looked them all up except the one on Quipus because Cyrus Day’s book is published in Kansas. You don’t need to do this. Just get on with the book itself (and Geoffrey Budworth do try again, skipping past the first few chapters).

Soon the action moves to the maritime coast of Canada and the quirky characters come to life. In the end the spell of the witch’s knots or whatever is exorcised and you are left with a hope of happiness for the lonely journalist, his entrancing small daughters and the aunt too. Books as real as this are rare. Annie Proulx didn’t get the Pulitzer prize for nothing. The knots are a bonus. Most local libraries will have a copy.