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The Collected Stories (FSG Classics) (1994)

av Grace Paley

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MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
7921120,028 (4.28)18
This reissue of Grace Paley's classic collection--a finalist for the National Book Award--demonstrates her rich use of language as well as her extraordinary insight into and compassion for her characters, moving from the hilarious to the tragic and back again. Whether writing about the love (and conflict) between parents and children or between husband and wife, or about the struggles of aging single mothers or disheartened political organizers to make sense of the world, she brings the same unerring ear for the rhythm of life as it is actually lived. The Collected Stories is a 1994 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.… (mer)

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Paley evokes the postwar New York Jewish demographic with such pathos, intimacy and irony. She very unassumingly gets under your skin, burrowing deeper with each successive story, with surprising metaphors and turns of phrases that make you pause and reread.

What struck me the most about this collection was the messy earthiness of its characters, - its network of decidedly rough and unpolished lower/-middle class women, who are knowingly or unknowingly swept up by the feminist waves of their times -, whose collective motherhood turns out to be a source of social change. A compelling contrast, compounded by Paley's (occasionally-brutally) minimalist prose.

Contains three collections: The Little Disturbances of Man, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, and Later the Same Day.

Further media: Click here to listen to Nell Freudenberger discusses Grace Paley's short story "Somewhere Else" with The New Yorker's fiction editor, Deborah Treisman. The podcast includes a reading of the story by Barbara Rosenblatt. "Somewhere Else" was published in The New Yorker on October 23, 1978. ( )
  kitzyl | Feb 28, 2018 |
46. The Collected Stories by Grace Paley
published: 1994
format: 386 page paperback
acquired: 2006, from my neighbor
read: Oct 19 - Nov 7 (with something of a break from Oct 29 - Nov 3)
rating: 5

Selected stories from three collections:
- [The Little Disturbances of Man] (1959)
- [Enormous Changes at the Last Minute] (1974)
- [Later the Same Day] (1985)

It’s when trying to review a book like this, that I get a sense of how limited I am as a reviewer. There is a world of stuff to say about this book, a rich atmosphere with numerous different angles intersecting in one place…atmospheres. There is a lot here beyond the sentence, that isn’t overtly in the text and quotable, and that is difficult for me explain. I would say most of what leads me to give this book five stars is elusive to me, and not captured below.

Paley was something of a idealist whose perennial fascination with human passions, experience and disappointment evolves over the course of time. She has an interesting perspective on religion and life meaning, and either by intention or as a side-effect, shows how incongruous these thoughts are to life itself. All this can felt in these stories - three difference collections from three different eras (1959, 1974 and 1985). Each collection is the same in many ways, in style, in characters, who reoccur, and yet they are each different, distinctive, maybe of Paley’s apparent place. The most notable constant is Paley’s fictional alter-ego, Faith Darwin (a play on her own name and on itself), a divorcee, mother two young boys, who ages through her stories.

I think this collection serves as an interesting commentary on its time and the changes through its time, although it dwells on things that did not change - being a woman, being who you are, family and children and the transience of relationships, or really the failure of them, and of judgement.

- [The Little Disturbances of Man] (1959)

Lillie, don’t be surprised—change is a fact of God. From this no one is excused.

- - -

I was just tangent to the Great Circle of Life, of which I am one irrevocable diameter, when my mother appeared.


- - -

Her first collection is striking by the raw power of its voices, and it is all voices. Each story has a narrator who has a lot to say and quickly. The stories are easy to get into, and quickly run through their material, the narrator having kind of exhausted our emotional stamina. I admired these hyper-powerful impatient stories. They “happen” quickly. The contents, the subjects touched on, struck me. I expected the baggage of Jewish culture, but I didn't expect all the sex and god and Christianity. This is great fun and powerfully memorable stuff.

wikipedia tells me the the collection wasn’t particularly successful, just another forgotten work by another unknown author. But it would be republished before her next collection was released.

- [Enormous Changes at the Last Minute] (1974)

Just when I most needed important conversation, a sniff of the man-wide world, that is, at least one brainy companion who could translate my friendly language into his tongue of undying carnal love, I was forced to lounge in our neighborhood park, surrounded by children.

- - -

She put her two hands over her ribs to hold her heart in place and also out of modesty to quiet its immodest thud.


- - -

After Paley’s first collection, there was some kind of pressure on her to write a novel, instead a short stories. Having read that first collection, I find that a painful misfit of author and style. Alas that novel never happened. Instead, this collection came out, and it certainly feels as if this is the scraps of a novel.

The stories are longer, paced slower, less voice, more thoughtful and reflective but extremely intense at the sentence level. In the center story, Faith in a Tree, Faith sits up on a tree limb in playground, a mother watching her children and other parents and life around the playground. Each paragraph, each interaction has so much weight. In my favorite story, A Conversation with My Father she writes about story telling. Her father tells her: ”I would like you to write a simple story just once more…the kind like Maupassant wrote, or Checkov, the kind you used to write. Just recognizable people and then write down what happened to them next.” And after she tries with some back and forth he is moved by the "Poor woman, Poor girl, to be born in a time of fools, to live among fools.", not realizing he is capturing his daughter, but he also concludes, “I see you can’t tell a plain story. So don’t waste time.”

My thoughts on finishing, as I posted on Goodreads, were: “This collection feels like a failed novel, it’s the splinters that couldn’t come together. It was too intense. So she took out the sparkling stand alone pieces, shoved some other stories in the gaps and called it a collection. Of course I got that all wrong, but posting it anyway."

- [Later the Same Day] (1985)

Once I thought, Oh, I’ll iron his underwear. I’ve heard of that being done, but I couldn’t find the cord. I haven’t needed to iron in years because of famous American science, which gives us wash-and-wear in one test tube and nerve gas in the other. Its right test tube doesn’t know what its left test tube is doing.

- - -

A few hot human truthful words are powerful enough, Ann thinks, to steam all God’s chemical mistakes and society’s slimy lies out of her life. We all believe in that power, my friends and I, but sometimes...the heat.


- - -

A different personality writes these stories. The author is older, toned down and so disappointed in life, but can’t get herself to say it. It worth taking a moment to think how different life was for a feminist and activist liberal in 1959 versus and 1985, and yet Paley takes no time to look at the positives, only life experience and aging, and disappointment creeps in.

All of her stories have a slim tether to really, breaking off in various ways without breaking the stories, but this collection goes the farthest, its the collection that most shows an author frustrated with the limits of story telling. It’s like the story isn’t saying enough, so she randomly grabs something nearby and incongruously tosses into the story in a desperate effort to make a point that can’t quite be said, but without breaking rhythm.

These stories lack the raw power of her first collection and even of her second, but maintain a complexity and develop a maturity. Who has Grace Paley become after all these times? She tells about Faith in 3rd person, bitterly and superficially through the voice of a racist old Jewish man, who recalls she was “once beautiful”: “She looks O.K. now, but not so hot. Well, what can you do, time takes a terrible toll off the ladies.

I don’t know Paley’s life story, but her short story publication would stop here. The novel idea was entombed. She would publish poetry, scraps of which she had integrated into her short stories here, and she would remain an activist. She would publish this book of selected storied in 1994. But it seems the published story telling would go silent until her passing in 2007

Silence —the space that follows unkindness in which little truths growl.

2017
https://www.librarything.com/topic/260412#6243131 ( )
1 rösta dchaikin | Nov 11, 2017 |
A distinctive voice--funny, with great rhythm. Probably not for everyone. ( )
1 rösta thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
Wow. I had no idea Grace Paley was so compelling. I'd always heard her name tossed around the Munro's and thought they had a similar in prose style. But they don't.

I particularly like her short shorts - puzzling and fireworky, slightly off-putting. ( )
1 rösta usefuljack | May 17, 2013 |
Wow. I had no idea Grace Paley was so compelling. I'd always heard her name tossed around the Munro's and thought they had a similar in prose style. But they don't.

I particularly like her short shorts - puzzling and fireworky, slightly off-putting. ( )
  usefuljack | May 17, 2013 |
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It seems right to dedicate this collection to my friend Sybil Claiborne, my colleague in the Writing and Mother Trade. I visited her fifth-floor apartment on Barrow Street one day in 1957. There before my very eyes were her two husbands disappointed by the eggs. After that we talked and talked for nearly forty years. Then she died. Three days before that, she said slowly, with the delicacy of an unsatisfied person with only a dozen words left, Grace, the real question is – how are we to live our lives?
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I noticed it first on my mother’s face, the rotten handwriting of time, scribbled up and down her cheeks, across her forehead back and forth--a child could read--it said old, old, old.
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This reissue of Grace Paley's classic collection--a finalist for the National Book Award--demonstrates her rich use of language as well as her extraordinary insight into and compassion for her characters, moving from the hilarious to the tragic and back again. Whether writing about the love (and conflict) between parents and children or between husband and wife, or about the struggles of aging single mothers or disheartened political organizers to make sense of the world, she brings the same unerring ear for the rhythm of life as it is actually lived. The Collected Stories is a 1994 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.

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