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An instructive but vastly overrated look at a late bloomer.
am 28. November 1997
E. Annie Proulx has a gift for describing the ocean that even the late Jacques Cousteau might envy. At one point in this otherwise overrated story, she describes an unruffled bay as "an aluminum tray dotted with paper boats." And she's equally vivid when the weather turns nasty: "Translucent thirty-foot combers the color of bottles crashed onto stone, coursed bubbles into a churning lake of milk shot with foam."
Unfortunately, dead-on maritime observation and the main character's amusing habit of thinking in headlines can't by themselves redeem a meandering plot whose revelations are telegraphed whole chapters in advance of their appearance. Notice, too, that nearly every reviewer swoons over the Proulx style. Her writing is described as "staccato," "atmospheric," "vivid," and "unique." Phooey! Clerks at Western Union have been writing this way for decades. Proulx simply gets more mileage from sentence fragments than anyone else. It's a good trick, but it verges on self-parody after awhile. Some of us still believe that the best writing styles are the ones you don't notice. Bottom line: while reading this book, I stopped to read three others.