Thursday, July 17, 2003

This is a very sad day for anyone who loves books:

Pulitzer-Prize Winning Author Shields Dies at 68
By Leah Eichler

TORONTO (Reuters) - Pulitzer-prize winning author Carol Shields wrote in an afterward to "Dropped Threads," an anthology of women's stories, that her own experience had taught her life is not a mountain to be climbed, but more like a novel with a series of chapters.

The novel that was the life of Carol Shields closed its final chapter this week, when the author died at the age of 68 after a long battle with breast cancer.

"She died of complications from breast cancer," Anne Collins, publisher of Random House Canada, said on Thursday.

The author of more than 20 books, 10 of them novels, Shields focused her writing on the lives of ordinary, middle-class people, specifically women.
After years of writing, she finally garnered international success in 993 for her novel "The Stone Diaries," a fictional biography of a woman who drifts through the role of child, wife, widow and mother, bewildered by her inability to understand her place in her own life.

The book went on to win a Pulitzer prize as well as Canada's Governor General's Literary Award. It was short-listed for the Booker Prize.

As a result of her success with "The Stone Diaries," Shields was able to buy a summer home in France, nicknamed "Chateau Pulitzer."

Another of her novels, "Larry's Party," won England's Orange Prize, given to the best book by a woman writer in the English-speaking world.

In her final novel, "Unless," Shields turned her attention to Reta Winters, whose eldest daughter, Norah, runs away from home to Toronto, where she lives on a street corner, wearing a sign on her chest that reads: "Goodness".

The novel explores the meaning of goodness while focusing on how women have been sidelined from the literary establishment, an issue that long consumed Shields.
"It took me a long time to realize that they were left out. Even when I was a graduate student in the 50s I hadn't caught on. I very gradually realized how women were colonized to an extent and how we still are," Shields told Reuters in an interview in February 2002.

"At the millennium, looking back, I thought: 'oh my, we haven't come far at all from those days in the '50s.' Woman are still enormously excluded in a kind of unthinking way. And yet, many can be persuaded that they are included," she said.

"I don't see that we've made much of a step toward the inclusion of women. And it is so subtle, it is almost a gentle exclusion. We hardly awaken to it. But I have."

Shields personally felt the sting of her work being sidelined. Early in her career, her writing was dismissed by critics as being too domestic.

"When I first started publishing novels in the '70s, there were reviews that called them 'domestic' novels and 'women's' novels, and spoke of them quite lightly. But, you know, that didn't bother me at all because I knew the lives of women were important, and I thought these critics were wrong and I was right," she said.

"I think it's time that we acknowledge that we all have a domestic life. Every person in the world has a domestic life but you wouldn't know that reading Hemingway. I love domesticity. I love the idea of home and I think that is, in the end, what serious novels are about: the search for home."

Shields was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1935 and moved to Canada at the age of 22. She began publishing poetry in her thirties and went on to write plays, essays, short stories, novels and a biography of Jane Austen. Her work has been translated into 22 languages.

A former professor of English at the University of Manitoba and chancellor of the University of Winnipeg, Shields lived the last years of her life in Victoria, British Columbia, on Canada's Pacific coast, with her husband, a retired engineering professor. She was the mother of five children.

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