E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News: A Word-Hoard

Once I’d encountered the word “hive-spangled” (a hyphenated compound that I’d imagine Hart Crane would have enjoyed using if not inventing outright—later I would come to find other gems like “blind-wrapped” and “ice-scabbed”) in E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News I knew I’d enjoy reading it. In fact, the book’s weaving of muscular bluntness with a lapidary lexicon (its grace marred and balance tipped, at times, by a heavy-handedness) buoyed me along in a narrative using the metaphor of knots, the use of which served to create a suffocating tension relieved only by a somewhat disappointing tying of many of the story’s dangling threads.

I’ve gotten into the habit of collecting words from books, and then entering them into what I call my “word-hoard.” Here’s my catch from The Shipping News (these words are best seen in their context, since Proulx uses each word carefully, never giving the impression that she’d flipped through a thesaurus to find unusual words):

waterweed, crenshaw, ruched, excoriation, saucisson, gyred, unguent, dolman, slovenly, tetter, doddering, atavistic, babushka, papillose, tuckamore, pumiced, auroral, craquelured, gansey, gledgy, knout, dottle, ocherous, dory, bight, nonpareil, yaffle, hove, char, stribbled, streeling, skreel, blatted, bollard, tatting, riven, duff, skivers, hangashore, ocky, trawl, vitrid, thunge, yawed, neap, drenty, turr, sadiron, skate-risp, skirling, skreaking, rhomboid, quadrate, bootjack, slewed, marlingspikes, fids, shinnicked, pelm, wizzled, cowling, screech, rucking, flobber, strigil, sinnits, glutch, slindgers, lunettes, hectoring, rondels, satinas, sputniks, komatik, mummers, jannies, graples, ichor, monger, twacking, whelk, jinker, caplin, hummocky, dishclout, bergy, ribband, noggin, shunt, sishy, hawser, lugubrious, and rine


11 thoughts on “E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News: A Word-Hoard

  1. I’ve read all of her short story collections, her first novel Postcards- didn’t get through Shipping News, probably my bad- and think she’s fantastic. I admire her outsider status, her blunt honesty regarding aspects of the publishing world. When she guest edited BASS, she refused to read blind, saying in her intro- that it was bullshit, basically, and that the editors almost always knew who they were reading anyway.

    • Hi, Paula. I really enjoyed reading her novella Brokeback Mountain from Close Range: Wyoming Stories, hence my taking the novel off the shelf here at my friend’s house in Far Rockaway. I think Proulx has a distinctive style, which seems equal parts McCarthy and Nabokov, with a dash of Updike’s lyrical brilliance, I’m definitely curious to see more of what she does.

      I’ve no idea about her forthrightness about the publishing world, but I heard something about her becoming angry about some aspect of how the abovementioned novella was dramatized.

    • “When she guest edited BASS, she refused to read blind, saying in her intro- that it was bullshit, basically, and that the editors almost always knew who they were reading anyway.”

      Well, that says a lot about what they were reading, certainly.

      There isn’t *that* much to applaud in substituting blatant log-rolling for sham inclusiveness. How about going for real inclusiveness instead, hmm?

      • Blatant log rolling? You haven’t read much of her constant rants regarding her problems with book publishing. She couldn’t be a log roller if her life depended on it. She just refuses to pretend to read “blind” because she thinks its bullshit. I don’t get how that’s log rolling. No one is more outside the literary “community” than Annie Proulx.

  2. Pingback: Links: Short Subjects | Mark Athitakis’ American Fiction Notes

  3. Pingback: Gary Lutz’s Divorcer: A Word-Hoard « BIG OTHER

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