Lisa Schwarzbaum
July 21, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Dressing Up for the Carnival

Current Status
In Season
Carol Shields
Fiction, Short Stories

We gave it an A

The carnival is life itself in this festive collection of 22 nicely varied stories by Carol Shields, the graceful author of Larry’s Party and the Pulitzer-winning The Stone Diaries. And as in her splendid novels, Shields’ Dressing Up for the Carnival glows with the lucid appreciation for how human character is shaped by average moments as much as by cataclysmic events: A woman shops for the perfect gift for her daughter, for example, in ”A Scarf,” and the search turns into a profound personal stock taking. In contrast, though, the Canadian author treats the weirdest situations with deadpan serenity: A strike by meteorologists results in an absence of atmosphere in ”Weather”; a nameless queen develops an agonizing intolerance for the sights and sounds of life in ”Stop!” Such color, such hubbub, such energy — these are lithe, inventive stories by a playful writer who loves the human parade. A

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