In "Dressing Down", the vigorous nudist and his wife separate and the story captures her final poignant gesture towards amends. In the hilarious "Invention", a husband is left behind when his wife finds fame after inventing the steering wheel muff and the narrator traces an ancestral line of inventors including a shepherd who discovered day-dreaming and others who developed the hyphen, word space and full-stop. This story brings together the main concerns of this collection: the investigation of long-term intimacies of people who inhabit "parallel weather systems" and a self-conscious teasing of the short story form. In "A Scarf", a failed writer who's eschewed "beginnings, middles and ends" for a feminist structure ends up removing her navel by plastic surgery after an unkind remark by her husband. Her friend fails to articulate the truth about a misunderstanding and realises that not one woman in her life "was going to get what we wanted..." and remained "too kind ... not knowing how to ask for what we don't even know we want." In "Ilk", a polished and wry spoof on academic musings about "buds of narrativity", a young untenured professor wonders where she stands on "narrative enclosures". A jammed vowel key in "Absence", forces the writer to complete the story without the use of this letter and creates a clever literary pun. One of the best stories is "Windows", in which two artists struggle against a new government tax on glass and have to paint in artificial light until they resolve their light-less gloom through art itself.
A provocative, tricky and often serious collection which asks profound questions of short fiction and love's mechanisms for survival.--Cherry Smyth --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
‘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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From the Back Cover
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.--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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.