Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 2, Spring 2009, pp. 159-160
This collection, which emerges from papers given at the Carol Shields colloquium held at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in March 2003, ranks alongside Edward Eden and Dee Goertz's Carol Shields, Narrative Hunger, and the Possibilities of Fiction (2003) as a significant addition to Shields scholarship. As its title suggests, the focus of the volume is Shields's multifarious engagement with-and subversion of-categories of "ordinariness" and "extraordinariness" in her fiction, although some of the thirteen essays address this theme rather tangentially.
Like Narrative Hunger, the collection opens with a previously unpublished essay written by Shields herself, in this case ''A View from the Edge of the Edge," in which she assesses her position as a female Canadian writer and her ambivalent relationship to a literary tradition that has tended to marginalize work on both national and gender grounds. Ranging in an erudite but witty and accessible manner from the microcosm to the macrocosm, from the books that occupied her parents' shelves to a shrewd analysis of contemporary literary culture, the piece serves as a valuable reminder of the perceptiveness of Shields's insights, her elegance in expressing them, and how much these qualities have been missed since her death.