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Larry's Party Paperback – September 1, 1998

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 339 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140266771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140266771
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 the Audio Cassette edition.

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Customer Reviews

The book seems like it was a collection of short stories strung together.
C. Hurwitz
I found myself empathetic to Larry Weller, and hope that eventually Shields follows his story in future novels.
David Cohen
I would say that I predicted the ending, but truthfully it was probably just what I hoped would happen!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Doug Baldwin on September 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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "pure-swallow" on June 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
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. Yes, think about it - it keeps looping back and more is revealed about one thread of story each time. If you took the trouble of tracing the paths of the maze diagrams in the book, you would see that.
Now why didn't I see that?
The writing is very good prose, and the descriptions often very rich and sensual - especially of the Harris tweed jacket (I own one) which I read three times, before reading the rest of the book. However, the tale lacks an emotional centre ... its like a well-written story about ... what? Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of "about what?"/slice of life stories which sizzle - but this just wasn't one of them. I felt exactly like ... completing a maze and finding an ugly stone fountain at the end. Exactly. Unfortunately.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on June 11, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book came highly recommended. I heard not one discouraging word, so what a letdown to read a boring story about a boring ordinary guy with a boring job. I read a lot, so I knew better than to judge a book from the first few chapters. I kept waiting for the yeast that would add life to this bland dough, but in vain. Then I realized what was happening. Revered, Canadian, Pulitzer Prize winning author writes another book and nobody wants to offend. The newspaper and magazine reviews speak volumes with their verbal gymnastics; variations of the old food reviewers "succulent".Then follows a synopsis of the story; an effort to fill space. The writing style was engaging enough to keep me reading, waiting for the payoff, but it doesn't climax so much as drift off to sleep. Disappointing.
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