One outstanding difference of The Shipping News compared to typical pieces of literature is the style that Proulx uses. Perhaps her style is how she won the Pulitzer Prize. At the same time that I find it annoying, I find it interesting. Make sense? Let me explain.
Some of what Proulx writes appears as short choppy sentences. These sentences are accompanied by newspaper headlines, which models Quoyle's thoughts. "Stupid Man Does Wrong Thing Once More (89)." "Newspaper Reporter Seems Magnet for Dead Men ( 210)." "Man Doubles as Chauffeur (222)." Yet other sentences are so full of meaning that you stop and read them twice. "The armor of indifference in which he protected his marriage was frail (16)."
This style was something that took me a while to get used to. I thought that it was so different from any other novel, a difference that I struggled with. During our class discussions, I noticed that many other people had strong opinions about Proulx's unusual style. Yet, when the elements are all separated, her style is not different. We have all read newspaper headlines before. They are meant to capture the essence of the article with a few powerful words. The words are simple, and easy to understand. (perhaps one reason why Quolye could "think" in headlines and at the same time struggle when writing his articles)
Other parts of the novel followed the "typical" conventions of literature. We have a family moving away from the past starting new beginnings. A man that can't let go of his first love. A child who is misunderstood. Along with finding the characters have some familiar situations, everything worked out in the end. A happy ending? Some would say yes. At least Quoyle finally let go of his past and is starting a new beginning. We also see Bunny in a new light. She now seems to be the main character of the novel. She's the hope for the Quolye family, a representation of new beginnings.
So what is my point? It took me a while to get used to Proulx style. Even though it was different, there were many aspects that were the same. Some people really liked the style. Others could go through the whole novel and have the same opinion as they did from the beginning. So how does this relate to the song Free Fallin? We have the original version of Free Fallin by Tom Petty. A familiar version, and one that most people seem to like. Then we have the version of Free Fallin by Stevie Nicks. The tempo, sound of his voice, and other small changes make the song different. If you break the song up, you have familiar elements: the title and the lyrics. Some people may like the first, some the second. Usually people have to listen to Stevie Nicks a few times before their willing to say that they like it.
My connection between Free Fallin and The Shipping News: Novel and Song Not So Strange. Proulx's unique style is something that I find fascinating about The Shipping News, but it took me the entire novel to change my original decision. Below is a short clip from Stevie Nick's song to help you understand this strange comparison!