Fidelity

Overview

Just before her death in 2007 at the age of eighty-four, Grace Paley completed this wise and poignant book of poems. Full of memories of friends and family and incisive observations of life in both her beloved hometown, New York City, and rural Vermont, the poems are sober and playful, experimenting with form while remaining eminently readable. They explore the beginnings and ends of relationships, the ties that bind siblings, the workings of dreams, the surreal strangeness of the aging body—all imbued with her ...

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Fidelity: Poems

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Overview

Just before her death in 2007 at the age of eighty-four, Grace Paley completed this wise and poignant book of poems. Full of memories of friends and family and incisive observations of life in both her beloved hometown, New York City, and rural Vermont, the poems are sober and playful, experimenting with form while remaining eminently readable. They explore the beginnings and ends of relationships, the ties that bind siblings, the workings of dreams, the surreal strangeness of the aging body—all imbued with her unique perspective and voice. Mournful and nostalgic, but also ruefully funny and full of love, Fidelity is Grace Paley’s passionate and haunting elegy for the life she was leaving behind.

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Editorial Reviews

Mary Jo Salter
…her final book, and in it Paley reproduces with touching fidelity what it is to be old, and sick, and missing one's vanished friends, and philosophical up to a point—but unwilling to part with dear life. The authenticity of her response to experience, which includes political protest (she never stopped being a liberal activist, even on the page), remains winning as ever…Speaking now to us from the grave, Paley is writer, character, actor—a wise companion. Though offstage, her voice seems likely to be heard a long while.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

When she died this summer at age 84, Paley was widely and rightly remembered as a master of the American short story, an engagé raconteur who mixed earthly humor, Jewish-American heritage, outspoken feminism, antiwar activism and an understated postmodern self-awareness. Those facets did not all appear in Begin Again(2001), a collected poems praised more for honesty than craft; happily, Paley's many fans may find that her best poems were her last. The wry, friendly voices in this posthumous assemblage address her later years with equanimity and humor. As in her short stories, the apparent naïveté of tone plays off the earned wisdom the teller finally conveys. In "I Met a Woman on the Plane," Paley listens to a mother of five living children explain that she cannot stop grieving for her sixth, who died. Other poems praise the territories Paley has known, with wit and kindness: Manhattan and Brooklyn streets and the hills of Vermont. Finally, though, this wise and patient collection focuses on old age, presented with an appealing combination of impatience and fortitude: "Anyone who gets to be/ eighty years old says thank you/ to the One in charge," Paley says, "and then im-/ mediately begins to complain." (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

"Life is as risky/as it is branchy/treetop and twigtip/are only the beginning." Just before her death in 2007 at the age of 84, Paley compiled this smart, engaging collection. Rich with memories of family and friends, evocations of rural Vermont and her hometown of New York City, and assertions of clear-headed social convictions, these poems are sometimes melancholy, sometimes funny, and sometimes simply a pleasure. Finding herself at odds with aging-"I forget the names of my friends/and the names of the flowers in/my garden"-Paley shows us here she was nevertheless in continued and absolute control of her faculties. She was known as a none-too-shy advocate of peace and justice, especially in the everyday, and these poems are in keeping with her fine-tuned values: "Oh how hard the hard-hearted rich are/when they meet a working person in their places/of work a cab or restaurant kitchen." A fitting legacy for a wise and delightful writer; highly recommended for all collections.
—Louis McKee

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Publisher
“In this book, Grace Paley’s celebrated gifts as a story-teller have entered a lyric fire and emerged unscathed. These are wonderful, unswerving narratives of ordeal and grace. Here are poems about friendship, about ageing and the approach of death. And in every one of them, her familiar wit shines. These poems will travel far: they will be on nightstands, in backpacks, on email lists, in conversation and memory and soliloquy for a long time to come.” —Eavan Boland

“All over the world, in languages you never heard of, she is read as a master storyteller in the great tradition: People love life more because of her writing.” —Vivian Gornick

The Barnes & Noble Review
When Grace Paley died in August 2007, she was primarily eulogized as a short story writer whose three collections of fiction set benchmarks for a generation of writers. The short stories deserve all their accolades, but equal attention should be paid to her poetry. In Paley's final collection of verse, Fidelity, the majority of the poems center around death, memory, and the loss of loved ones. Though her short fiction was filled with linguistic energy, political activism, and the manic rhythm of New York City streets, in Fidelity we find a writer who has mellowed with age (dare we say "gracefully"?). These are poems from an 80-something's sober perspective of a world that has increasingly carried its hand basket to hell. War in general, and Vietnam in particular, continues to ring loud in Paley's fist-like voice: "What a terrible racket they made / beating all those swords into plowshares." The collection is threaded with a vein of melancholic nostalgia as Paley calls upon the ghosts of her friends and family who, she recalls, "were in great pain at leaving / and were furiously saying goodbye." All is not completely sad, however; Fidelity crescendos to a note of uplift as, in the last stanza of the last poem, "This Hill," winter gives way to spring:

on this narrow path ice holds the black undecaying oak leaves in its crackling grip oh it's become too hard to walk a sunny patch I'm suddenly in water to my ankles April

Haunting and haunted, Fidelity is the superb epilogue of Paley's career in which she furiously says goodbye. --David Abrams

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374299064
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/18/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 973,016
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 8.21 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in the Bronx in 1922, Grace Paley was a renowned writer and activist. Her Collected Stories was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. She died in Vermont on August 22, 2007.

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