The word shingle is of obscure origin. It is used most often to describe a gravelly shore of loose waterworn pebbles. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in English Traits/Ability, speaks of “the enchantments of barren shingle and rough weather.” Although some shingles can support lichens and grasses, the term most often connotes a beach that is rough, dreary, and inhospitable. When Brown, the heroically deceiving and self-destructive sailor in Robert Stone’s Outerbridge Reach, steps “ashore on a shingle of flint that shifted beneath his boots,” he is about to experience a landscape decidedly unwholesome and hallucinatory.

Joy Williams