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Larry's Party [Paperback]

Carol Shields
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
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Paperback, Sept. 29 1998 CDN $15.16  
Audio, Cassette, Abridged, Audiobook CDN $19.96  

Book Description

Sept. 29 1998
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.

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Product Description

From Amazon

Larry Weller is a regular guy, or so Carol Shields has him think. When we first meet him in 1977 Winnipeg at age 26, he's pondering the pluses of Harris tweed, still living at home, and realizing he's in love with his girlfriend, Dorrie, a flinty car saleswoman. Larry is proud of his job at Flowerfolks, even though he fell into floral design by accident, and if his relationship with his parents isn't perfect, it's not too bad, either. (Stu and Flo Weller may have less page-time in Larry's Party, but they are hugely memorable. He is a master upholsterer, happiest when working; she is a woman ruined by nervous guilt, having inadvertently killed off her mother-in-law with some improperly preserved green beans.)

Carol Shields has said that she had "always been struck by the fact that in most novels people aren't working." Though her hero climbs the floral managerial trellis for 17 years and finds more rhapsody in work than marriage, Larry and Dorrie's honeymoon in England points him toward what will be his true vocation--mazes. These living constructs turn him into a thinker, a man of imagination, and the author's descriptions are quietly spectacular as well as effortlessly sweet. Larry wonders at their "teasing elegance and circularity ... a snail, a scribble, a doodle on the earth's skin with no other directed purpose but to wind its sinuous way around itself." Just as Larry changes with the times--each elliptical chapter ages him by one or two years--so does his art. In 1990, he designs a maze in which you can't really lose yourself. In 1997, the McCord Maze "is intended to mirror the descent into unconscious sleep, followed by a slow awakening." Larry, too, has a slow awakening, taking several false turns before reaching midlife. As the novel closes, with a bravura dinner party scene, he may finally be at ease in the world. But his creator knows that he is only halfway there, and still has to negotiate his way from the center of the maze to its exit. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Shields (winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Stone Diaries, LJ 5/15/96) narrated the abridged version of her novel (Audio Reviews, LJ 11/1/97), while here another woman reads Harry Weller's uneventful life. Alyssa Bresnahan gives a perceptive characterization of this 20th-century Everyman. Although the story describes Harry's everyday life in intimate detail, even to the number of fillings in his teeth and shoes in his closet, it is his work that is the heart of the book. Harry designs mazes for gardens; they are his passion as well as his profession. They are, in his words, "refuges from confusion, an orderly path for the persevering." Even Harry's life is consistent. As if in a maze, he follows sharp turns and false trails until he emerges triumphant in the center. It is then, in 1997, that Harry Weller?age 47?gives a party to celebrate his birthday, brilliantly described by Shields in a manner worthy of Virginia Woolf. A memorable experience. Recommended.?Jo Carr, Sarasota, FL
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem, emotionally and stylistically. Sept. 9 2001
Format:Paperback
Like so many of us, Larry Weller finds himself, on occasion, lost. Is that why he is drawn to the arcane profession of maze-making? Or is his fascination with mazes a reflection of his deepening intellect and development as a man?
In the course of fifteen carefully observed chapters, Carol Shields examines the maze-like Life of Larry. Each chapter is like a short film in which Shields refocuses her lens on a specific aspect of Larry's life: "Larry's Words," "Larry's Love," "Larry's Kid," etc. The end result is an in-depth portrait of a multi-dimensional guy, a compendium of details that elevates the seemingly ordinary Larry into someone utterly unique. She follows him through college (actually a trade school for florists), through the courtship of his first wife, through disillusionments and deaths, and finally to the party of the title, in which many of his life's loose ends are resolved.
This is deep, smart, resonant writing, a subtly cajoling book that satisfies and delights.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Loved This Book! May 5 2000
Format:Paperback
I thought this was one of the more refreshing books I've read in a while, due mainly to the fact that Larry is nothing special. I get so tired of reading novels where the protagonist is a billionaire or a stunningly handsome James Bond-type character. I really enjoyed the mundane descriptions of Larry growing up in Winnipeg, and how the events in his life just sort of happened to him. I found the ordinary characters to be much more believable and much more interesting than the usual hyped-up characters who populate modern fiction. The layout of the book actually had me wondering whether these chapters were originally written as short stories; I too found the repetition of background material in each chapter to be somewhat tedious. As a plot device it didn't really wash. Overall, though, this is another Bargain Bin treasure that I am going to recommend to others. I read "Stone Diaries" and must say that I liked this one better. Hoorah for the common man!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Sept. 17 2007
Format:Paperback
I've read most of Shields' books and taught a few, but this is my absolute favourite. It's a charming yet completely believable tale of one man's life. Read it if you need to have your faith restored in humanity.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A story of a life lived and observed June 11 2003
Format:Paperback
Carol Shields has a way of writing about the ordinary that elevates it to the sublime. We follow Larry, an ordinary guy, through his life through jumps in time of several years at a leap. Through the chapters, we follow him through a callow youth, through a first marriage and parenthood, divorce, his parents and sister's relationships with him and each other, remarriage and re-divorce, and most central to the book, his mundane job and rise to stellar status in his field of maze designer, of all things. But of course the maze is a metaphor for the complexities of life, trying to find ones way in the world. The dinner party at the end is clearly meant to represent the 'goal,' the center of the maze, but it's left to the readers to decide if Larry is likely to find his way out again.
A lovely tour de force.
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4.0 out of 5 stars now an on stage musical! Feb. 19 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
LARRY'S PARTY has been made into a musical and is currently playing in Toronto, then Montreal,and Ottowa. This is a worthwhile read, especailly the beginning and end. At about p. 140 it gets limp until p.200 (of paperback edition). Those parts seem like writing exercises for Shields - but she can write. Note :P. 279 when "he knew himself to be in embrace of profound tenderness, that second cousin to passionate love." and her comments on "mistakes" p.12. I liked Larry from his white socks on p. 5.and his non-aMAZING life. How do you visualize him? I see him as a grown up Ralphy from THE CHRIRTMAS STORY movie.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A/mazing! Nov. 3 2000
Format:Paperback
An elderly friend recommended Carol Shields to me many years ago - I wish I'd listened earlier. This woman writes like I imagine angels sing.
While on their honeymoon trip to England with his wife Dorrie, Larry, a Canadian florist becomes inspired by the lush English hedges. During a visit Hampton Court Palace, Larry becomes totally besotted by mazes, and thus is born a life calling.
Besides being about mazes, this book is a maze. Each chapter jumps forward to a new point in Larry's life, but keeps twisting and turning and reflecting back on previous episodes; some that were life-shattering at the time, become mere asides when viewed from a different angle. As Larry meanders through life, two marriages, fatherhood, career changes, etc., he remains beset by same inadequacies, failings and fears of his youth. His life just seems to happen around him. But since this book is a maze, we know it must have a goal, and when achieved, it is surprising, poignant and triumphant. Then you realise he still has to get out of the maze.
I feel I might have some chance of understanding men better having read this book. Carol Shields has obviously studied men intensely to come up with his incredibly believable character, an ordinary man. All of the characters are well constructed and the dialogue is real. The words melt together into flawless storytelling; a gem of a book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligence mixed with warmth Oct. 15 2000
Format:Paperback
Larry Weller's twenty year examination by Carol Shields is a profound revelation. His life parrallels that of the average late twentieth century man who is constantly searching for meaning and grace. He finds it in his passion for mazes--a perfect metaphor for this twenty year journey.
Shields portrays Larry perfectly. His early choice of work by accident, his doomed first marriage, and the subsequent chances he later takes--Shields writes them in a matter of fact style that almost makes this novel seem like a documentary. Her description of places, and the details she sketches to every other character in the novel are no less than outstanding. The dialogue each brings to the novel is bracingly real. I found myself empathetic to Larry Weller, and hope that eventually Shields follows his story in future novels.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Larry just stood there and let life happen to him
John Lennon once wrote "Life is what happens while you're making other plans." Lennon never met Larry Weller, a man drifting down the river of life with no rudder and no... Read more
Published on Sept. 7 2001 by Charleen Bunjiovianna
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligence mixed with warmth
Larry Weller's twenty year examination by Carol Shields is a profound revelation. His life parrallels that of the average late twentieth century man who is constantly searching... Read more
Published on Oct. 15 2000 by David Cohen
4.0 out of 5 stars Well done, as usual
After reading "Stone Diaries" and "Happenstance" I finally got around to reading "Larry's Party. Read more
Published on July 19 2000 by Sharon Saunders
4.0 out of 5 stars Intersting in a voyeursitic manner
The Larry in question is a man whose entire adult life is studied minutely in this novel, and this is what is fasinating about it. Read more
Published on July 11 2000 by Lesley West
4.0 out of 5 stars A truly unique book with lots of depth
This book amazed me at how well a woman (Carol Shields) captured so many essences of the male psyche. Read more
Published on July 4 2000 by The Bas
3.0 out of 5 stars Maze for the Mind
What I didn't get immediately, but then dawned on me Eureka-fashion at three o'clock in the morning, was that this book is structured like a maze. Read more
Published on June 14 2000 by "pure-swallow"
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique
What an usual book. I loved how Carol Shields created a man who at first glance seems ordinary but is in fact quite extrodinary. Read more
Published on June 11 2000
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