Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dressing Up for the Carnival: Stories

I picked this book up from "the bookstore in kenora" on Thursday while bumming around before Lynne and Josh's wedding. (This bookstore is very small, colourful, and filled with goodies. It's exactly the kind of bookstore I'll run in cottage country someday...)

I like Carol Shields, and short stories seemed like more appropriate reading material for the bus. (Confirmation: these stories were an excellent Greyhound companion).

This book reminds me of Amelie, choosing minor pleasures and details in life and focusing in on them, devoting all attention to such supposedly mundane (but delightful) objects as windows, keys, and meterologists.

A few of my favourites:

"Dressing Up for the Carnival" - The title story highlights costumes or props of about 1/2 dozen characters from the script of everyday life. These items bring joy not only to their users/wearers, but--thanks to Shield's descriptions--to readers as well.

"Weather" - A couple's individual and joined lives quickly fall into disarray when meterologists go on strike. (An entertaining commentary on how much our lives are defined and guided by something as simple and as indeterminable as the weather.)

"Mirrors" - A family who spends each summer at their cottage that is completely devoid of mirrors--and how the absence of physical reflection alters internal reflections.

"Absence" - A writer sits down to work only to discover that one of the vowels on her keyboard doesn't work. An exhortation on the frustrating limitations that one letter can have on a story. (The entire story is written without using the letter "i".) Contains many eloquent descriptions of grammar!

"Reportage" - The first line reads, "Now that a Roman Arena has been discovered in southeastern Manitoba, the economy of this micro-region has been transformed." An interesting look at how our history shapes our (geographic/anthropologic) identities.

"Soup du Jour" - Another story with cinematic story-clips reminiscent of Amelie. (Mainly about remembering the requested ingredient for soup.)

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