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On the way to his first day of work, Quoyle sees a woman with a child walking along the road. He arrives at The Gammy Bird newspaper office, he meets the staff, a rich cast of local color. They include the likes of Tert Card, the crusty, sarcastic managing editor; Billy Pretty who writes the Home News page; and Nutbeem who plagiarizes foreign news stories. After observing a few newsroom arguments, Quoyle settles in to acquaint himself with the paper, which includes a borage of ads, a hilarious gossip section, and numerous sexual abuse stories. His second day of work, Quoyle meets Jack Buggit, an old fisherman turned newspaper editor. Buggit reels into a long monologue, telling of his old fishing days, and explains that he was supposed to work in the glove factory by Quoyle's house except that they had no leather nor anyone who knew how to make gloves. Buggit then figured that if there had been a newspaper to give him that news, he would have saved a trip. He tells Quoyle that they will get along as long as Quoyle does not try to offer any "journalism ideas" (and basically does not question Buggit's authority). He ends by telling Quoyle that Quoyle will be responsible for the shipping news and car wrecks.
Back in their hotel room, Quoyle dreads the idea of covering car wrecks since it reminds him of Petal's death. The aunt tells him that he must face his life and go through with it. She feels they need to get out of the hotel room, and suggests that Quoyle get a boat, since that would be the easiest way to commute from the family house to the newspaper. Quoyle is paranoid of a boat, being afraid of water in general.
At the newspaper, Quoyle finds out that Dennis, the man helping them fix up the family house, is Jack Buggit's son. Jack had a falling out with Dennis after they lost Dennis's brother, Jesson. Jack is out that day, which seems to be the usual routine. Nutbeem is supposed to be covering a fire, but he ends up talking to Billy Pretty and Quoyle about his boat. After a long terrible bike ride, Nutbeem promised himself he would spend the rest of his life on the water. Nutbeem's story gets cut off when he finally goes to the fire. Quoyle is sent to the harbormaster's office to get the shipping news.
Diddy Shovel used to be known for his physical strength, but now his most outstanding characteristic is his deep voice. Quoyle fixates on a painting of a shipwreck, while Diddy Shovel pulls up the notebooks of ship arrivals and departures. He shows Quoyle The Polar Grinder, a boat in the harbor that transports sushi for Japanese trading. Diddy tells Quoyle the story of Jack and Dennis Buggit. Jack has always feared the sea, although he spends all his time fishing. After Jesson died at sea, Dennis, against his father's wishes, signed up to be a carpenter on The Polar Grinder. Diddy then gives a graphic account of a terrible storm in which the ship was caught. He gets interrupted with a phone call before he can tell Quoyle what happened to Dennis.
Quoyle goes down to the wharf and buys a boat for only fifty dollars. He also sees the same woman in the slicker again, finding her striking. Back at the newsroom, Billy Pretty and Tert Card take one look at it and deprecate him for buying such a terrible boat.
These chapters introduce a whole new cast of characters in the town of Killick- Claw. Proulx establishes a rich sense of local color through the newsroom characters. Most all the characters at The Gammy Bird are old fisherman. The newspaper is such a peculiar subculture that Quoyle feels like he is in the school playground "watching others play games whose rules he didn't know."
The name "The Gammy Bird" is a bit ironic for this paper. The introduction to the chapter suggests that the gammy bird is the name Newfoundlers gave the common eider, which gathers in flocks for "sociable quacking sections." The author tells that the name "gammy" refers to the old habit of shouting the news from one ship to the next, when the ships passed one another. Although one can see how a newspaper might take this name for its symbolic significance, the folks at The Gammy Bird seem to dramatize the literal meaning of "gamming." That is, for any other paper the name would seem clever since "gamming" is a kind of primitive form of news-sharing, but this room engages itself very literally in "sociable quacking sessions." Very literally, these men are old fishermen, exchanging stories with one another.
The content of The Gammy Bird develops this idea further. The men who work there seem more interested in their own stories than in news. The paper is filled with advertisements, and the advertisements and the home section are the only parts of the paper that the reader hears about in detail. Both these sections serve to flesh out the Newfoundland setting and people—both are more about gossip and local color than any "newsworthy" information. Proulx again uses listing as a stylistic technique. The list of ads not only tells a great deal about Newfoundland life, but it also suggests that the ads are the most telling part of the paper—at the very least, they offer specific information that is more important to the reader than any other section.
The "news" stories fall into little more than two sensationalized categories: car wrecks, or "SA" (sexual abuse) stories. The idea reducing the perversity of sexual abuse to a kind of genre story again reveals Proulx's darkly comic tone. One can hardly believe that any paper prints four sexual abuse stories per issue, but in the world that Proulx fashions, it seems perfectly credible. The quirks and kinks of Proulx's subculture are reminiscent of Mark Twain's penchant for local color. The narrow confines of a regional way of life paradoxically give the writer more license to exaggerate. Like in any fictional work, the author is not asked to create a world that could be factual, but instead a world that the reader will believe.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Shipping News!