A new collection of short stories from the author of The Stone Diaries (winner of the Pulitzer prize) and Larry’s Party (winner of the Orange prize).
All over town people are putting on their costumes; X slips into his wife’s lace-trimmed night gown and waltzes around his bedroom; Tamara is no longer the dull clerk receptionist when she wears that yellow skirt, she evolves into a stunning creature exuding passion and vitality. In ‘Weather’ a couple’s life is thrown into utter chaos when The National Association of Metereorologists go on strike – what will they wear? What will they eat? In ‘Soup du Jour’ a young boy contemplates life, the cracks in the pavement and his mother’s soup-making.
Each story encapsulates the human spirit, its diversities, complexities and absurdities. Shields observes with compassion the carnival that goes on in each of our lives and the realities that we create for ourselves. Carol Shields’ second collection of short stories celebrates the extraordinary details that are found in ordinary, everyday lives.
‘There are few writers currently at work who display such steely control of their material, such seemingly effortless range and variety.’ Alex Clark, Guardian
‘Shields is about the best we have, she does not just express what oft was thought; she snags the shadows of those thoughts, the thoughts we did not know we had. The effect – at once elating and visceral – feels like a conjurer pulling a handkerchief from your heart.’ Daily Telegraph
‘Her perceptions are so quick, her style is so acute, that she can tack a breath to the page and skewer a thought on the wing. It is her speciality to isolate moments that, because of some sensuous overkill they possess, remaining distinct in the mind for years, perhaps for a lifetime.’ Hilary Mantel, Sunday Times
‘It is the breadth of Carol Shields’ human sympathy that marks her out as a special writer. That breadth is gloriously evident in “Dressing Up for the Carnival”. Whether she is playing the clown or offering poignant reflections on the fragility of happiness, Shields writes with a grace and lucidity that few of her contemporaries can match.’ Sunday Telegraph
About the author
Carol Shields is American born, spent three years in Manchester in the 60s, but now lives in Canada. Married with five children. Her first novel was published in 1990.
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Shields infuses this enigmatic and quirky collection of 22 short stories with ingenious characterizations in heartfelt tales that are mostly character sketches capturing the gestural, kinetic truths about the lives glimpsed here, with happy results. The title story begins, "All over town people are putting on their costumes" and catalogues a dozen characters finding themselves surprised by the joy they take in their accessories: two young sisters flaunt their plastic ski passes a month after their vacation; a secretary pushes a unique English pram for her boss's new baby; an old man buys daffodils for his unfriendly daughter-in-law. In a similar fly-on-the-wall style, "Dying for Love" peeks in on three women who, unlucky in love, are considering suicide, but each finds "a handrail of hope to hang onto." Unforgettable moments include the beginning of "The Harp," when the huge concert instrument falls from an overhead window and injures a passerby; the harpist then visits the victim in the hospital. "Reportage" also is memorable for an unlikely happenstance: the discovery of Roman ruins on a Manitoba farm. When tourism supplants wheat farming, it's a boon to everyone except a retired Latin teacher. Many of the stories are light and breezy but not unsatisfying, because the characters are winning even in their mostly cameo-like appearances. Already distinctive, they could evolve into such complex or intriguing Shields characters as The Stone Diaries' Daisy Stone Goodwill or Larry Weller of Larry's Party. Some tales are slighter vignettes, but all share enough whimsy, humor and wisdom to make the collection thoroughly enjoyable and, in many instances, illuminating.