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Larry's Party Paperback – Sep 29 1998

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada (Sept. 29 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679309519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679309512
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #321,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Carol Lindberg Feight on 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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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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By "judithb" on 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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By A Customer on April 21 1999
Format: Paperback
In Carol Shield's novel, Larry's Party, each chapter is divided into chronological periods in the main character, Larry's life. What Shields shares with the readers in this book are not the main events in Larry's life, but instead are sketches of numerous (seemingly insignificant) occurences that shape the character's life. From the outside, Larry appears to lead a normal, mundane life. Once the reader is allowed into Larry's private thoughts, however, the ordinary dilemmas and difficulties this man faces form into an immensely complex character. "And he's tired- tired of his name, tired of being a man, tired of the ghostly self he's chained to and compelled to drag around." Shields writes each sentence in almost a poetic manner. "He would fall alseep, finally, to the rhythm of those strange voices: Stu and Dot Weller, his silent poetic parents, coming awake in the soundwaves of their own muffled words, made gracefully by what they chose to say in the long darkness." Shields chooses extraordinary words and phrases to best portray the deep and sometimes hidden meanings. The wording and language Shields uses throughout the novel grow increasingly brash and crude. She writes in a pattern that describes every character in a journalistic way each time they are mentioned. "Dorrie, his first wife... Larry, from Winnipeg." This way of labeling becomes redundant and unnecessary. Shields tends to write each of the milestones of Larry's life in one brief sentence, while she goes into great detail and depth with the daily, routine events. It would be easy to assume that such deep analyzing of one certain character would be dull and without a driven plot, but Larry's Party draws in and captivates the reader. The characters do not grow tiresome because the further one gets into the novel, the more the characters reach out and become more relatable to the reader.
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