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A.O. Scott

A.O. Scott is a book reviewer for Newsday.

Annie Proulx

A.O. Scott, 9 December 1999

E. Annie Proulx was 56 years old when her first novel, Postcards, was published in 1991. Since then, she has made up for lost time. The Shipping News appeared in 1993, and snatched up the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize and the Irish Times International Prize. These two novels (as well as Heart Songs, a collection of short stories published by a small press in the US in 1988 and by Fourth Estate in Britain in 1994) seemed to place Proulx in the broad tradition of American regional realism. The books were marked by close attention to the customs and rhythms of life in the upper eastern corner of the North American continent, and showed an almost scholarly regard for local folkways and idioms of speech. Heart Songs and Postcards were set in gritty, impoverished pockets of Proulx’s native Vermont. The Shipping News was infused with the foggy chill of Maritime Canada – what Elizabeth Bishop called ‘the narrow provinces of fish and bread and tea’, where Proulx’s ancestors had come from.’‘

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