By Marta Dvorak, Manina Jones
Claiming the 'ordinary' and 'extra-ordinary' as severe different types, individuals to this quantity discover the philosophical and literary import of Carol Shields's writing, its advanced play with style and narrative approach, and its re-valuing of domesticity and gendered viewpoint.
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Extra resources for Carol Shields and the Extra-Ordinary
We can see various themes of Shields’s fiction bubble up from diverse points of inspiration and become fully developed; included among these themes are a focus on the details of daily life, naming, food and entertaining, letter-writing, and women’s roles. However, beyond the interwovenness of the archives in the ideas that interest Shields, I see hints that her allusions to biography and to archival material in her fiction, when brought to bear in interpreting her archives, confound a straightforward interpretation of her archives.
We had at that time only a handful of novelists. Our literature, in fact, was probably a good deal smaller than that of Hungary, and there were probably only a few names – Leacock, Callaghan – who were part of the public currency. Pierre Berton had just begun his explorations; Juliette sang from the radio, and the Happy Gang did their gig every day right after the Farm Report. After 1957, perhaps because of the thrust of the Canada Council or perhaps because it was time, regional theatres and symphonies sprang to life across the country.
21 Choosing fictional food involves a series of refinements. As we can see in the last lines of another e-mail to her daughter Anne, the fatal food that kills the mother-in-law in Larry’s Party is changed in the successive revisions from rhubarb to jarred beans, since rhubarb is found out not to be poisonous; this, as Shields relates, is a fact that Blanche Howard discovered by looking in The Joy of Cooking. This attention to cooking and dining is one of the overriding ties to the lives of women, but it is somewhat inverted when Shields writes Larry’s Party, the narrative in which the male character hosts a dinner party.
Carol Shields and the Extra-Ordinary by Marta Dvorak, Manina Jones