Dressing Up for the Carnival

Carol Shields

Published by Viking Adult, 2000
ISBN 10: 0670889210 / ISBN 13: 9780670889211
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Stated first american edition, first printing with full number line. Unmarked book, no remainder marks. Dust Jacket is covered by Mylar Brodart; 0.8 x 8.1 x 5.3 Inches; 208 pages. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: A new short story collection from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Stone Diaries and Larry's Party

Carol Shields "has a knack for turning the ordinary into the extraordinary"(New York Daily News). And nowhere more than in Dressing Up for the Carnival, which distills all her elegance, wisdom, and insouciant humor into short stories that read more like nugget novels.

Through them all runs Shields's preoccupation with identity. In the title story--a compacted day in the life of the world--a procession of characters try on new selves; in "Dressing Down" a YMCA director sheds his suited self one month a year in a nudist enclave. Yet these twenty-two stories, and their quiet epiphanies, contrast with each other more sharply. The lyricism of "Weather" and the bittersweet sexuality of "Eros." The wicked skewering of pompous academic conversation in "The Next Best Kiss" and the odd, straightfaced whimsy of "Flatties." And in "The Scarf"--new for this collection--the realities of a fledgling author's book tour. Playful, graceful, acute yet tender, Dressing Up for the Carnival is Carol Shields at her most accomplished and appealing. It "reminds us again why literature matters" (The New York Times Book Review).

Review: In her third collection of short fiction, Dressing Up for the Carnival, Carol Shields employs two tales about clothing as structural bookends. The title story, which functions as her opening salvo, begins with a highly suggestive sentence: "All over town people are putting on their costumes." In some cases, of course, this is a literal description. Tamara, for example, dons a yellow cotton skirt without checking the weather, for "her clothes are the weather, as powerful in their sunniness as the strong, muzzy early morning light." But clearly Shields is also making a statement about identity--about the mix-and-match process of deciding who we are. Thus we get the more discreet high jinks of

X, an anonymous middle-aged citizen who, sometimes, in the privacy of his own bedroom, in the embrace of happiness, waltzes about in his wife's lace-trimmed nightgown.... He lifts the blind an inch and sees the sun setting boldly behind his pear tree, its mingled coarseness and refinement giving an air of confusion.
The final story, "Dressing Down," details the friction between a hardcore nudist and his reluctant wife, and suggests very nearly the opposite moral: we are defined by the garments we remove. Elsewhere, Shields explores the questions of identity and intimacy with less of a sartorial accent. "Invention" features another fractured marriage, this one done in by the wife's invention of a steering-wheel muff ("Money began to trickle in, then became rivers of money, especially when she introduced her famous faux-leopard muff, which became the signature for all that was chic, young, adventurous, and daring"). In "Eros," surely among the most elegant stories in this elegant collection, sex is both transcendent and suffocating, an entrance into the self and every human being's cross to bear. Dressing Up for the Carnival is a witty performance in which Shields occasionally thumbs her nose at the very notion of the traditional short story (much as she tinkered with novelistic protocol in The Stone Diaries). But make no mistake: she's a serious artist, with her eye fixed firmly on the naked (or at least half-undressed) truth. --Bob Brandeis

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Dressing Up for the Carnival
Publisher: Viking Adult
Publication Date: 2000
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Near Fine
Edition: First American Edition; First Printing.

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Book Description Viking Press, New York, New York, U.S.A., 2000. Hardcover. Book Condition: Near-Fine. Dust Jacket Condition: Fine. Near-fine condition. NO remainder marks or price clippings. Price inside dustcover: $23.95. Tight spine, bright pages. NO writing, marks or tears inside book. 210 pages. - In Dressing Up for the Carnival, Carol Shields distills her characteristic wisdom, elegance, and insouciant humor into twenty-two irresistible stories. A wealth of surprises and contrasts, this collection ranges from the lyricism of "Weather," in which a couple's life is thrown into chaos when the National Association of Meteorologists goes on strike; to the swampy sexuality of "Eros," in which a room in a Parisian hotel on the verge of ruin is the catalyst for passion; to the brave confidence of "A Scarf" -- new for this collection -- which chronicles the realities of a fledging author's book tour. Playful, graceful, acutely observed, and generous of spirit, these stories are Carol Shields at her most accomplished and appealing. Bookseller Inventory # 027887

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