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Are You Ready For Some…Short Story?

February 4, 2008

Doesn’t quite fit, does it?  You have to kind of slur the syllables in ‘short stories’ together. ;)  And yes, I watched the Superbowl, and of course I rooted for the Giants!  I always watch, for one reason: the excuse to eat a glorious amount of junk food.  Yep-I said it. hehe  Last year, I was extra excited, because Peyton Manning is just so darn cute (and I lived with a football player who had spent the entire fall helping me understand the game and getting me addicted).  This year, since Eli is not quite as cute as his older brother (sorry! maybe he’ll grow into it), but he totally made it up for it with that stunning, beautiful, dare I say legendary drive down the field.  My mom and I were up on our feet screaming by the end of it, and in the middle, when we thought he had been sacked, I had this moment of pure heartbreak.  We were with friends, and they were for the Patriots, but fortunately they didn’t mind us getting into it!  (we’re those sports fans that like to scream and boo just to make the game more interesting)

Oh right-some of you may be thinking “gee, here I thought I was reading a book blog.”  And sorry about not posting for so long-my mom and I are sharing a laptop and she’s researching a big paper.  But I do have a short story to talk about this week, I promise. :)  It’s from Carol Shield’s collection Dressing Up for the Carnival, which I’m about halfway through.  I’m going to talk about the whole book next week, but I started on Friday and one story perfectly hit a chord with me.

To explain why, I have to stop talking about books again and share a side of me you probably don’t know.  You see: I love clothes.  I love high fashion, I love going shopping for clothes, I love staring at my closet in the morning and deciding on the perfect outfit for my mood.  And Friday was laundry day…I have so many clothes that I only do laundry about once a month, which means that I get ‘reacquainted’ with various items each time.  And I get to look at my wardrobe as whole, seeing if I have any holes.  Ok, hopefully you’re not judging me yet.  Anyway, since I had clothes on the brain, and the joy of finding the exact piece you’re looking for after going to every store possible and then it being at an affordable price is one that I appreciate.

So this story is called “A Scarf.”  The character is a minor novelist, and she’s on a book tour in D.C.  She doesn’t really have much to do, so she decides to go shopping for her daughter’s birthday present; her daughter has recently been to Paris and is coveting a silk scarf. Here she is at the outset of the trip:

I took my time. I realized I would be able, given enough shopping time, to buy Norah the perfect scarf, not the near-perfect and certainly not the impulse purchase we usually settled for at home. She had mentioned wanting something in a bright blue with perhaps some yellow dashes. I would find that very scarf in one of these many boutiques. The thought of myself as a careful and deliberate shopper brought me a bolt of happiness.

Pretty soon, she’s caught up in what I like to call the “Shopper’s High.”

As I moved from one boutique to the next I began to form a very definite notion of the scarf I wanted for Norah, and begun, too, to see how impossible it might be to accomplish this task. The scarf became an idea; it must be brilliant and subdued at the same time, finely made, but with a secure sense of its own shape. A wisp was not what I wanted, not for Norah. Solidity, presence, was what I wanted, but in sinuous, ephemeral form. This was what Norah at seventeen, almost eighteen, was owed.

And finally the pay-off:

And there it was, relaxed over a fat silver hook in what must have been the twentieth shop I entered. The little bell rang; the updraft of potpourri rose to my nostrils, and the sight of Norah’s scarf flowed into view. It was patterned from end to end with rectangles, each subtly out of alignment: blue, yellow, green, a kind of pleasing violet. And each of these shapes was outlined by a band of black, colored in roughly as though with an artist’s brush. I found its shimmer dazzling and its touch icy and sensous. Sixty dollars. Was that all? I whipped out my Visa card without a thought. My day had been well spent. I felt full of intoxicating power.

This isn’t the end of the story (and it’s a very well-written story), but it was this arc that really caught my attention. Of course, such fulfillment sometimes takes more than a day: it took me two months to find the perfect pair of grey pumps at a price I could afford. And I think it took me half a year once to find this white pleated skirt I really, really wanted! But eventually, such things turn up if you’re looking. I know some of you are probably thinking I’m horribly materialistic, but there’s something very artistic about conscious shopping (and later dressing) that appeals to me. And Shields captured it in this wonderful little story!

I have a feeling Shields herself is a fan of clothes: here’s another wonderful little passage from the title story:

Tamara has flung open her closet door; just to see her standing there is to feel a squeeze of the heart. She loves her clothes, she knows her cothes. Her favorite moment of the day is this moment, standing at the closet door, still a little dizzy from her long night of tumbled sleep, biting her lip, thinking hard, moving the busy hangers along the rod, about to make up her mind.
Yes! The yellow cotton skirt with the big patch pockets and the hand details around the hem. How fortunate to own such a skirt. And the white blouse. What a blouse! Those sleeves, that neckline with its buttoned flap, the fullness in the yoke that reminds her of the morris dancers…
Next she addes her new straw belt: perfect. A string of yellow beads. Earrings of course. Her bone sandals. And bare legs, why not?
She never checks the weather before she dresses; her clothes are the weather, as powerful in their sunniess as the strong, muzzy early morning light pouring into the narrow street by the bus stop, warming the combed crown of her hair and fueling her with imagination. She taps a sandaled foot lightly on the pavement, waiting for the number 4 bus, no longer just Tamara, clerk-receptionist for the Youth Employment Bureau, but a woman in a yellow skirt.

Doesn’t it make you want to run out and buy a yellow skirt? And with that, I’m going to leave you. I’m off to finish putting away my clothes! ;)

13 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2008 1:32 am

    I an into skirts. I love the flowing ones. But a yellow one? I am not so sure!

    BTW, I have posted a poem on clothes on my other blog..

    that is:

  2. February 4, 2008 5:01 am

    Oh my, a whole new side to Eva! Though I didn’t for a second think “materialistic”. I’m the extreme opposite…couldn’t care less about clothes. But I have to say that I find this newly-discovered (to me) facet of you to be quite delightful! It’s so interesting getting to know someone through a blog…learning their quirks and interests…having them become a whole, well-rounded person over time.

    There was a lot of yelling going on here last night as well! Though we were all cheering on the Giants…no Patriot fans in this house! (Of course, there’s not really any Giants fans either. I’m a lifelong fan of the Dolphins, so seeing the Patriots go down was so sweet!)

  3. February 4, 2008 5:40 am

    Shields does write about clothes a lot. ‘A Scarf’ turned into the novel ‘Unless’. I’m a big fan.

  4. musingsfromthesofa permalink
    February 4, 2008 8:45 am

    You shop too? Are you sure we’re not related? That quotation from Carol Shields is perfect. I would rather not buy something than settle for the inferior version of what I want.
    But anyway – wanted to tell you that I read both Inkheart and Death at Le Fenice following your recommendations and loved both of them. So thank you!

  5. February 4, 2008 10:44 am

    Not a big shopper myself. I wear a uniform to work and my non-work clothes consist mainly of jeans and a T-shirt or sweatshirt. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the feelings involved in those passages.


  6. February 4, 2008 1:14 pm

    All the comments are on clothes, but I think it’s great you love football! I’m the up-on-my-feet-screaming kind of fan as well, and I love other fans like that, even if we’re on opposite sides. :-)

  7. February 4, 2008 3:31 pm

    I’ve recently caught the fashion bug. For years I would wear worn out clothes and hated shopping, but for some reason I’ve turned completely around and the urge for clothes is almost as strong as the urge for books. Oh my!

    I’m not a huge Shields fan (Unless and Larry’s Party turned me off), but I KNOW I’ve read that story somewhere. It’s gonna bug me until I figure out where.

  8. February 4, 2008 3:37 pm

    You do realize I’m singing “Are you ready for some shortstory?” out loud over here, right? lol…It should be the new theme for your short story posts ;)

    There was plenty of screaming at my house for that play when Eli looked like he was sacked and then got out of it and made that amazing pass…sheesh! Don’t see that too often. Glad you enjoyed the game!

  9. February 4, 2008 3:55 pm

    Alas, Carol Shields was. She died of cancer a couple of years ago. (With my highly subjective sense of time, that means somewhere between two and ten. Or more.)

    I read the Stone Diaries and wasn’t overfond of it. Too many things niggled and bothered and made the suspension of disbelief too difficult for me.

  10. February 4, 2008 4:28 pm

    I love to go shopping when I’m in the mood and when I have a certain something in mind and I love dresses and high heels. Anyway, have you by chance read any of the Kerry Greenwood books – the Phryne (sp?) Fisher mysteries. They are set in the 20s and the descriptions she gives about the clothes are really good – you wish the book came with pictures to see these fabulous outfits.

  11. February 4, 2008 6:30 pm

    Gautami, I’ll have to check the poem out. :)

    Debi, I agree that it’s interesting to watch someone gradually emerge from blogging, and I’m glad you didn’t think I was materialistic. We’re not real Giants fans either, just onces for the Super Bowl. Lots of screaming!

    Chris, I’ll have to look for it.

    MusingsfromtheSofa, I’m so glad you loved both of the books! (and you must read quickly) Glad to meet another shopper!

    CJH, I’m glad you enjoyed the passages

    Trish, hehe-I like screaming fans too! I don’t understand how people can’t get really into a game. :)

    Andi, my urge to *buy* clothes trumps my urge to *buy* books since there’s no such thing as a clothes library. It’s good to see another person who loves clothes!

    Chris, lol-if you send me some audio file of you singing it, I’ll post it faithfully every week. ;) I’m still in awe over Eli fending off all of those huge guys-what heart! And it was fun to watch Peyton’s reactions in hte box. :D

    Walrus, I guess I’ll avoid that book then. Thanks for letting me know!

    Iliana, those books have been on my wishlist for awhile-I have a feeling I’d love them! Maybe I’ll put them on my birthday list. :) I love dresses too, although I don’t wear high heels too much (I love being short, so I try not to make myself any taller most of the time)

  12. February 4, 2008 8:47 pm

    sadly I ignored the whole game. Except for a few commercials.

    Oh you don’t sound materialistic, but I’m jealous that you can go that long without washing clothes. I hate washing clothes!

    Sounds like a good short story!


  1. A Bit More Carol Shields « A Striped Armchair

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