Larry's Party

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Larry's Party

by Carol Shields

Random House Of Canada | September 20, 1998 | Trade Paperback

3.6875 out of 5 rating. 16 Reviews
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Larry Weller, born in 1950, is an ordinary guy made extraordinary by his creator''s perception, irony and tenderness. Carol Shields gives us, as it were, a CAT scan of his life, in episodes between 1977 and 1997 that flash back and forward seamlessly. As Larry journeys toward the millennium, adapting to society''s changing expectations of men, Shields'' elegant prose makes the trivial into the momentous. Among all the paradoxes and accidents of his existence, Larry moves through the spontaneity of the seventies, the blind enchantment of the eighties and the lean, mean nineties, completing at last his quiet, stubborn search of self. Larry''s odyssey mirrors the male condition at the end of our century with targeted wit, unerring poignancy and faultless wisdom.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 352 pages, 3.14 × 2.06 × 0.29 in

Published: September 20, 1998

Publisher: Random House Of Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0679309519

ISBN - 13: 9780679309512

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– More About This Product –

Larry's Party

by Carol Shields

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 352 pages, 3.14 × 2.06 × 0.29 in

Published: September 20, 1998

Publisher: Random House Of Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0679309519

ISBN - 13: 9780679309512

Read from the Book

Chapter One Fifteen Minutes in the Life of Larry Weller 1977 By mistake Larry Weller took someone else’s Harris tweed jacket instead of his own, and it wasn''t until he jammed his hand in the pocket that he knew something was wrong. His hand was traveling straight into a silky void. His five fingers pushed down, looking for the balled-up Kleenex from his own familiar worn-out pocket, the nickels and dimes, the ticket receipts from all the movies he and Dorrie had been seeing lately. Also those hard little bits of lint, like meteor grip, that never seem to lose themselves once they''ve worked into the seams. This pocket -- today’s pocket -- was different. Clean, a slippery valley. The stitches he touched at the bottom weren''t his stitches. His fingertips glided now on a sweet little sea of lining. He grabbed for the buttons. Leather, the real thing. And something else -- the sleeves were a good half inch longer than they should have been. This jacket was twice the value of his own. The texture, the seams. You could see it got sent all the time to the cleaners. Another thing, you could tell by the way the shoulders sprang out that this jacket got parked on a thick wooden hanger at night. Above a row of polished shoes. Refilling its tweedy warp and woof with oxygenated air. He should have run back to the coffee shop to see if his own jacket was still scrunched there on the back of his chair, but it was already quarter to six, and Dorrie was expecting him at six shar
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From the Publisher

Larry Weller, born in 1950, is an ordinary guy made extraordinary by his creator''s perception, irony and tenderness. Carol Shields gives us, as it were, a CAT scan of his life, in episodes between 1977 and 1997 that flash back and forward seamlessly. As Larry journeys toward the millennium, adapting to society''s changing expectations of men, Shields'' elegant prose makes the trivial into the momentous. Among all the paradoxes and accidents of his existence, Larry moves through the spontaneity of the seventies, the blind enchantment of the eighties and the lean, mean nineties, completing at last his quiet, stubborn search of self. Larry''s odyssey mirrors the male condition at the end of our century with targeted wit, unerring poignancy and faultless wisdom.

From the Jacket

Larry Weller, born in 1950, is an ordinary guy made extraordinary by his creator's perception, irony and tenderness. Carol Shields gives us, as it were, a CAT scan of his life, in episodes between 1977 and 1997 that flash back and forward seamlessly. As Larry journeys toward the millennium, adapting to society's changing expectations of men, Shields' elegant prose makes the trivial into the momentous. Among all the paradoxes and accidents of his existence, Larry moves through the spontaneity of the seventies, the blind enchantment of the eighties and the lean, mean nineties, completing at last his quiet, stubborn search of self. Larry's odyssey mirrors the male condition at the end of our century with targeted wit, unerring poignancy and faultless wisdom.

About the Author

Born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1935, Carol Shields moved to Canada at the age of twenty-two, after studying at the University of Exeter in England, and then obtained her M.A. at the University of Ottawa. She started publishing poetry in her thirties, and wrote her first novel, Small Ceremonies , in 1976. Over the next three decades, Shields would become the author of over twenty books, including plays, poetry, essays, short fiction, novels, a book of criticism on Susanna Moodie and a biography of Jane Austen. Her work has been translated into twenty-two languages. In addition to her writing, Carol Shields worked as an academic, teaching at the University of Ottawa, the University of British Columbia and the University of Manitoba. In 1996, she became chancellor of the University of Winnipeg. She lived for fifteen years in Winnipeg and often used it as a backdrop to her fiction, perhaps most notably in Republic of Love . Shields also raised five children — a son and four daughters — with her husband Don, and often spoke of juggling early motherhood with her nascent writing career. When asked in one interview whether being a mother changed her as a writer, she replied, “Oh, completely. I couldn’t have been a novelist without being a mother. It gives you a unique witness point of the growth of personality. It was a kind of biological component for me that had to come first. And my children give me this other window on the world.” The Stone Diaries ,
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From Our Editors

Larry Welder is an ordinary guy made extraordinary by Carol Shields' perception, irony and tenderness. As Larry journeys toward the millennium, adapting to society's changing expectations of men, Shields' elegant prose transforms the trivial into the momentous. Larry moves through the spontaneity of the 1970s, the blind enchantment of the 80s and the lean, mean 90s, at last completing his quiet, stubborn search for self. His odyssey mirrors the male condition at the end of the 20th century with targeted wit, unerring poignancy and faultless wisdom.

Editorial Reviews

"This triumphant novel runs in delicious counterpoint to Shields'' evocation of Daisy Goodwill''s life in the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Stone Diaries.... The novel glows with Shields'' unsentimental optimism and her supple command of a sweetly ironic and graceful prose." - Publishers Weekly

"Shields'' fiction - intricately plotted machines with ordinary people as the moving parts-seems so modestly designed to give pleasure and diversion, it''s easy to underestimate the artistry.... Shields has taken her place alongside such Canadian writers as Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood." - The Globe and Mail

"Even better than The Stone Diaries.... Shields is brilliant." - The Vancouver Sun

"No more richly satisfying novel, to my knowledge, has been published this year.... In guiding her hero through his maze, Shields demonstrates once again her supreme mastery of emotional geometry." - The Sunday Telegraph (U.K.)

"Larry''s Party is a celebration of manhood, a gently humorous look at the last decades of this century, and a loving embrace of all our muddled lives. Anyone who reads this book will look at their own lives with renewed affection." - Gail Anderson-Dargatz, author of The Cure for Death by Lightning

Bookclub Guide

1. Carol Shields spoke of becoming a writer because there weren't enough books that examined women's friendships and women's inner lives - or, as she put it, "the kind of book I wanted to read but couldn't find." In what ways does Shields's fiction bring the lives of women to the surface, or into our understanding? What sorts of female experiences does she illuminate?

2. In her novels and stories, Shields often experiments with using different voices. The Stone Diaries shifts between first-, second-, and third-person narrative; one section of Larry's Party is recorded almost entirely in dialogue; Happenstance is a novel in two parts, one narrated by the husband, one by the wife; the stories in Various Miracles come from a wide variety of narrative standpoints. Discuss point-of-view in Shields's works, and the importance of telling one's own stories - as characters or in real life. Also, what is the role of the writer in telling other people's stories for them?

3. Though she's lauded as a writer who brought the lives of ordinary people to the page and made them extraordinary, Carol Shields took some exception to the idea in one interview: "I have never known what 'ordinary' people means! I don't think I quite believe in the concept…. There's no one who isn't complicated, who doesn't have areas of cowardice or courage, who isn't incapable of some things and capable of great acts. I think everyone has that capability. Either we're all ordinary or else none of us is ordinary." Discuss the role of ordinary life in Shields's fiction. How do her above views come across in her writing? Is there a respect for the everyday that you don't see in works by other writers?

4. Shields once commented that she'd often set up the structure of a novel, determining such elements as how many chapters there would be, and how long they'd be, before she even set out to write. "I need that kind of structure," she explained. "[S]ometimes I change it. But mostly I don't.… I love structures, and I love making new structures for novels." Discuss the overall structures of different novels and how they relate to the content. For example, does Larry Weller's love of garden mazes say anything about the twenty years of his life covered by Larry's Party? What meaning can be found in the one-word chapter titles of Unless? How does Shields use, or even undermine, the biography format in The Stone Diaries?

5. "I''m concerned about the unknowability of other people," Shields once said. "That''s why I love biography and the idea of the human life told or shown. Of course, this is why I love novels, too. In novels, you get to hear how people are thinking. That's why I read fiction." How does Shields expose and often celebrate the inner lives of her characters? Can you find examples of characters who aren't really known to those around them? How do their relationships suffer, or thrive, or even just survive, in the face of such distance?

6. How does what you know about Carol Shields as a person affect your reading of her books? Are you able to separate the author from her work? Do you feel the need to? What parallels can you draw between her approach to life and those of her characters? For instance, most of her main characters are women at mid-life, and many of her characters are writers or work in other areas of book publishing (translators, editors, etc.).

7. In interviews about Larry's Party, Carol Shields commented more than once that men were "the ultimate mystery" to her. Discuss the male characters in Shields's fiction - both those in prominent roles, like Larry Weller in Larry's Party or Tom Avery in The Republic of Love, and the many husbands and lovers that seem to populate the sidelines of other stories and novels. How successfully does Shields portray the world of men in her work? Are there common characteristics you can trace between books? Are some of her male characters defined by the women they love? Or is it more often the other way around?

8. Many of Carol Shields's works explore the ways individuals interact with their communities. Some characters are defined by their loneliness, while others struggle with their responsibilities to the people around them, whether it's their family or a larger group. Discuss the roles of family and community in Shields's fiction.

9. Carol Shields has always been well-known for her love of language, and its slipperiness. In what ways does her writing call attention to itself as writing? Are there particular stories or novels that you find playful? Or linguistically complex?

10. Author and literary journalist James Atlas, who edited the series for which Shields wrote her Austen biography, once said about Carol Shields, "she is our Jane Austen." Compare Shields's fiction to that of Austen - are there common themes or techniques? What other major authors would you compare Shields to, and why? Where does her work fit into our literary canon?

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