I highly recommend all of Grace Paley’s writing, and this book is not my favorite of her work, but it’s part of a journey I love having with her. I read a Grace Paley story in a creative class years ago, and I loved, but I felt like to created an unfulfilling promise of what her work contains.
There’s a passage in AS Byatt’s Possession where the male lead opens his door to fifteen hungry cats looking up at his face and the resulting indulgent and wonderful description that follows inspires him to write a poem based on the mnemonics he inadvertently created.
That’s the experience of reading Grace Paley, watching someone who finds language to be a wonderfully indulgent and almost voluptuous writing experience. These stories change by the time we reach the middle of her career, but this first collection imagines much more in depth and longer looks into the lives of the mostly New Yorkers Paley captures with her language. These are not the stories of plot, but certainly of experience, and they are like watching someone trying to capture the experience of swimming in the voices and language of a city and of a certain set of people and of certain time.
These feel like the way we talk about the time of musicals, but stripped bare of the performative aspects of a Gene Kelley movie. Instead, they’re attempting to really capture a kind of life that was lived and often enjoyed. These are rich.