Saturday, January 09, 2010

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute

I learned about Grace Paley from Selected Shorts, a podcast I listen to and admire. It's nice to hear her stories read, and read well. I probably should have tried reading some of the stories in this collection out-loud.

Paley's short stories are beautifully written - modern, witty, very American (American immigrant), feminist. Here's an example of a killer opening:
I saw my ex-husband in the street. I was sitting on the steps of the new library.

Hello, my life, I said. We had once been married for twenty-seven years, so I felt justified.

He said, What? What life? No life of mine.

I said, O.K. I don't argue when there's real disagreement. I got up and went into the library to see how much I owed them.

The librarian said $32 even and you've owed it for eighteen years. I didn't deny anything.

Although I found myself emotionally distant from most of her characters, sometimes they crashed right into my world:
Alexandra, in the first summer dress of spring, stood still and watched. She breathed deeply because of having been alone for a year or two. She put her two hands over her ribs to hold her heart in place and also out of modesty to quiet its immodest thud. Then they went to bed in the bedroom and made love until that noisy disturbance ended. She couldn't hear one interior sound. Therefore they slept.

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