Until today I’d been to Newfoundland only once — in the company of Annie Proulx’s hapless hack Quoyle in the pages of The Shipping News. I’ve been back again just now, this time thanks to a piece by Paul West from the winter edition of The American Scholar. I came across that on the excellent website Longform, which, as its name suggests, deals in writing that runs to a little more than the 140 characters allowed on Twitter.
I’d never read The American Scholar before, and never read anything by West, who died late last year and is described in a Daily Telegraph obituary as a Derbyshire-born novelist who revelled in word play and purple prose. That word play, I’d imagine, could grow tiring over the length of a novel, but I enjoyed his snapshot memories of Newfoundland as he first saw it in the late 1950s: “Gray hills yielded to gray mountains. From the sea the land had an olive, alluvial look, but seen more closely it was bare rocks, moss, agonised shrubs, and the fog coiling around. The icecap gave this land a crewcut and made spiritual stubble too.”