Larry's Party by Carol ShieldsLarry's Party by Carol Shields

Larry's Party

byCarol Shields

Paperback | September 20, 1998

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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.
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, Shi...
Title:Larry's PartyFormat:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8 × 5.18 × 0.71 inPublished:September 20, 1998Publisher:Random House of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0679309519

ISBN - 13:9780679309512

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Rated 2 out of 5 by from Mixed Feelings I desperately wanted to like this book. I tried many, many times, but I couldn't get into it. I had hoped that the beauty and intricacy of the language would be enough to keep my attention, but I found the plot much too dull to stick with it. The words were enough to catch my eye, but not much else. This book is a bucket of sand with a few gems hidden within it—you just have to decide if you want to sift through it until you find a magic line.
Date published: 2017-03-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from I really wanted to like this... I love Carol Shields. The Stone Diaries is one of my all time favourites and I have enjoyed all of her other books. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into this one. Maybe I will try again in a few years. Maybe it was just me.
Date published: 2017-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I love Carol Shield's writing! One of my favourite book of all-time. I bought it for my wife who is an avid reader. She rarely mentions if the books she reads are any good, but when she started to read Carol Shields which also included The Stone Diaries, she just raved about her writing style. Her prose is uncomplicated and she often thinks out loud. The kind of stuff the you think about in your head but would never put them in words. A simple delight to read. Highly recommended, witty and full of iron
Date published: 2015-02-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Good The last chapter in this book is titled “Larry’s Party”. And by the time you get to the end of this book, it’s been quite a party. There are a lot of things that happen to Larry as you read this book. He gets married, he becomes a father, he divorces, he moves to another country, he marries again. But those are just life events that happen to Larry. “Larry’s Party” is much more than life events. It’s about how Larry reacts to these events, how he views his life, how he comes to terms with the things that happen to him, how he comes to accept his life just the way it is and be grateful for the journey he’s been on. Larry is a maze maker. The theme of mazes runs throughout the novel…very aptly I might say. My own mind was a maze as I read…the words taking me back into my own life. There is a very truthful, poetic way that Shields write about the way we “grow up” and the paths we take to getting there.
Date published: 2012-07-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Didn't enjoy this one. This is the first book I've read by this author and I don't think I'll try another if this is her typical fare. It's an uninteresting story about an ordinary man with an uninteresting life. I kept hoping to at least see some character growth over the main character's lifetime. But he really doesn't grow much as a person, he just keeps plodding through his dull life. Not one I would recommend.
Date published: 2010-05-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Entertaining and Interesting This is the first novel of Shields' that I've read, and I found her writing to be excellent. Her characters are ordinary people, but her writing makes them extraordinarily fascinating. Although her main character is a man, Larry Weller, this is a book that can be enjoyed by both sexes, as both will be able to identify strongly with Larry's struggle to find his own place in life. The themes of mazes and nicknames are original and fascinating. I read this novel after seeing the musical stage version, and I must say, the creators of the play did an excellent job adapting this work -- if you get a chance, check it out. My only complaint about the novel is that it's written almost like a series of short stories -- each section is capable of standing alone -- but that means that, in the later sections especially, some repetition of explanations and events occurs. It's usually well handled, but on one or two occasions, is a wee bit overdone. Still, a great novel overall and a very fun and thought provoking read.
Date published: 2001-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wo-man book Smart. Full of irony. Nothing less than one of the best novel I have ever read. The exploration of a man's life... made through the eyes of a women. "Larry's Party" is a pure poem relating a 20 years long odyssey : Larry Weller search of self.
Date published: 2001-02-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Larry's Party I had great expectations of this book but they were not satisfied. Kept waiting for something meaningful to happen, but the story was really just a description of a nice guy and his rather boring life. I enjoyed the prose, but without a good story, I am afraid it was not enough for me.
Date published: 2000-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book! A book written by a woman, describing a man's life. Quite philosophical, makes you think about your own life and where it's going. I couldn't put it down.
Date published: 1999-05-30

Read from the Book

Chapter OneFifteen Minutes in the Life of Larry Weller1977By 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 sharp, and it was rush hour and he wasn't anywhere near the bus stop.And -- the thought came to him -- what’s the point? A jacket’s a jacket. A person who patronized a place like Café Capri is almost asking to get his jacket copped. This way all that’s happened is a kind of exchange.Forget the bus, he decided. He'd walk. He'd stroll. In his hot new Harris tweed apparel. He'd push his shoulders along, letting them roll loose in their sockets. Forward with the right shoulder, bam, then the left shoulder coming up from behind. He'd let his arms swing wide. Fan his fingers out. Here comes the Big Guy, watch out for the Big Guy.The sleeves rubbed light across the back of his hands, scratchy but not too scratchy.And then he saw that the cuff buttons were leather too, a smaller-size version of the main buttons, but the same design, a sort of cross-pattern like a pecan pit cut in quarters, only the slices overlapped this little bit. You could feel the raised design with you finger, the way the four quadrants of leather crossed over and over each other, their edges cut wavy on the inside margin. These waves intersected in the middle, dived down there in a dark center and disappeared. A black hole in the button universe. Zero.Quadrant was a word Larry hadn't even thought of for about ten years, not since geometry class, grade eleven.The color of the jacket was mixed shades of brown, a strong background of freckled tobacco tones with subtle orange flecks. Very subtle. No one would say: hey, here comes this person with orange flecks distributed across his jacket. You'd have to be an inch away before you took in those flecks.Orange wasn't Larry’s favorite color, at least not in the clothing line. He remembered He'd had orange swim trunks back in high school, MacDonald Secondary, probably about two sizes too big, since he was always worrying at that time in his life about his bulge showing, which was exactly the opposite of most guys, who made a big point of showing what they had. Modesty ran in his family, his mum, his dad, his sister, Midge, and once modesty gets into your veins you're stuck with it. Dorrie, on the other hand, doesn't even shut the bathroom door when she’s in there, going. A different kind of family altogether.He'd had orange socks once too, neon orange. That didn't last too long. Pretty soon he was back to white socks. Sports socks. You got a choice between a red stripe around the top, a blue stripe, or no stripe at all. Even geeks like Larry and his friend Bill Herschel, who didn't go in for sports, they still wore those thick cotton sports socks every single day. You bought them three in a pack and they lasted about a week before they fell into holes. You always thought, hey, what a bargain, three pairs of socks at this fantastic price!White socks went on for a long time in Larry’s life. A whole era.Usually he didn't button a jacket, but it just came to him as he was walking along that he wanted to do up one of those leather buttons, the middle one. It felt good, not too tight over the gut. The guy must be about his own size, 40 medium, which is lucky for him. If, for example, He'd picked up Larry’s old jacket, he could throw it in the garbage tomorrow, but at least he wasn't walking around Winnipeg with just his shirt on his back. The nights got cool this time of year. Rain was forecast too.A lot of people don't know that Harris tweed is virtually waterproof. You'd think cloth this thick and woolly would soak up water like a sponge, but, in actual fact, rain slides right off the surface. This was explained to Larry by a knowledgeable old guy who worked in menswear at Hector’s. That would be, what, nine, ten years ago, before Hector’s went out of business. Larry could tell that this wasn't just a sales pitch. The guy -- he wore a lapel button that said “Salesman of the Year” -- talked about how the sheep they've got over there are covered with special long oily hair that repels water. This made sense to Larry, a sheep standing out in the rain day and night. That was his protection.Dorrie kept wanting him to buy a khaki trenchcoat, but he doesn't need one, not with his Harris tweed. You don't want bulk when you're walking along. He walks a lot. It’s when he does his thinking. He hums his thoughts out on the air like music; they've got a disco beat; My name is Larry Weller. I'm a floral designer, twenty-six years old, and I'm walking down Notre Dame Avenue, in the city of Winnipeg, in the country of Canada, in the month of April, in the year 1977, and I'm thinking hard. About being hungry, about being late, about having sex later on tonight. About how great I feel in this other guy’s Harris tweed jacket.

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?

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