Proulx, E(dna) Annie
(US, 1935– )
The Shipping News (1993) is that most unusual thing in contemporary fiction, a novel with a convincing happy ending. When we meet the hapless Quoyle, his life is falling apart; bratty kids, failed marriage, no career, no-hoper. He moves to the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland, and within that harsh landscape finds fulfilment. Proulx's quirky, original style made The Shipping News a prizewinner. Its combination of grittiness and tenderness seduced millions of readers. Proulx's writing is grounded in accurate knowledge of everything she's describing, whether it's boat-building, upholstery, or small-town journalism. The short stories in Heart Songs (US, 1988, UK, 1995) are much bleaker. Proulx has been compared to Hemingway and Faulkner, but the power and simplicity of these stories is better compared to the master of the American short story, Raymond Carver. The descriptions of the harsh rural New England landscape are brilliantly done. The lives of the people in the stories are equally bleak. The themes of revenge, regret, isolation are condensed but big in scale. Accordion Crimes (1996) is a grim exposé of the American Dream through generations of immigrants who are linked by ownership of the same green button accordion. It's an astonishing tour de force but doesn't quite bring off what it's trying to do. It's not that you're not convinced by Proulx's characters or research, but the catalogue of disasters becomes so unremitting you begin not to care any more. Women writers this ambitious are few and far between, however, and the stories in Close Range (1999) are beautifully crafted.
Margaret Atwood, Ernest Hemingway, David Guterson. See UNITED STATES OF AMERICA RV