Dressing Up for the Carnival (Hardcover)

By Carol Diggory Shields

Viking Adult, 9780670889211, 208pp.

Publication Date: April 24, 2000



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 off 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 ocher 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".