A feisty, passionate gathering of writings.
Just As I Thoughtby Grace Paley
This rich and multifaceted collection is Grace Paley's vivid record of her life. As close to an autobiography as anything we are likely to have from this quintessentially American writer, Just As I Thought gives us a chance to see Paley not only as a writer and "troublemaker" but also as a daughter, sister, mother, and grandmother. Through her descriptions/i>… See more details below
This rich and multifaceted collection is Grace Paley's vivid record of her life. As close to an autobiography as anything we are likely to have from this quintessentially American writer, Just As I Thought gives us a chance to see Paley not only as a writer and "troublemaker" but also as a daughter, sister, mother, and grandmother. Through her descriptions of her childhood in the Bronx and her experiences as an antiwar activist to her lectures on writing and her recollections of other writers, these pieces are always alive with Paley's inimitable voice, humor, and wisdom.
A feisty, passionate gathering of writings.
In Paley, life, literature and politics converge--nonviolently, of course--in a cunning patchwork quilt of radiance and scruple, witness and example, nurture and nag, subversive humor and astonishing art: a Magical Socialism and a Groucho Marxism.
What distinguishes [Just As I Thought] from standard political fare is what sets her stories apart as well: Paley's genius for capturing the way people talk to each other across seemingly unbridgeable divides.
The pieces, written from the mid-'60s through the mid-'90s for magazines as diverse as Ms. and Esquire, are often slight, dated or predictable. Among the notable selections are her frank discussion of her two abortions, her 1974 meeting in Moscow with dissident Andrei Sakharov, her loving appreciation of Russian writer Isaac Babel's short stories and an account of how her mother, traveling by bus to Virginia in 1927, insisted on sitting in the section reserved for blacks. Also included are a polemic against the Gulf war, tributes to such writers as Donald Barthelme and Clarice Lispector, on-site war reportage from North Vietnam and autobiographical sketches about growing up radical in the Bronx during the Depression with socialist Russian Jewish migr parents.
One comes away with the impression that Paley's long-time grass-roots involvement in diverse movementsfeminist, antinuclear, environmental, antiwarreflects a unitary struggle for social justice.
Paley writes with disarming frankness and humor, especially when her subjects are women, childrenwhich, as she points out, include menand herself. The reader sees her as child, married woman, housewife, mother, employee (phone answerer, typist, babysitter, secretary, teacher)but through it all, first and foremost, Paley is a writer. She has been arrested more than once for civil disobedience, had an abortion, served in a delegation to Vietnam and, representing the World Peace Congress, to Moscow, taught writing, written poetry, become a grandmother, become an older womanbut she has not become old. In her work Connections, she puts a personal face to war, AIDS, racism. Her words ring true when she writes, "I don't see any reason in being in this world actually if you can't in some ways be better, repair it somehow." Paley's stories have appeared in The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly; her poetry includes Leaning Forward (LJ 2/1/86). In 1994 she was the winner of the National Book Award for The Collated Stories (LJ 3/1/94).
--Robert Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schools, Indiana
The 50 essays, articles, interviews, and talks that make up this collection take Paley from her Bronx childhood, as the daughter of Russian-Jewish socialists, in the 1920s and '30s to her current role as an elder stateswoman of the American literary left. Although she claims for the book a strong focus on the dark days of the 1950s (the cloud of the Red Scare hangs in the background of much of the book), it might be argued more convincingly that this is a volume with its feet firmly planted in the 1960s, the decade in which Paley's political activism began its fullest flowering and a decade whose legacy of nonviolent activism is clearly brought to fruition in her subsequent antinuclear, feminist, and antiwar activities. Paley reflects on her life experiences, ranging from work at a series of uninspiring day jobs to abortion, from being arrested at peace marches to sharing thoughts with comrade sisters like Kay Boyle and Barbara Deming, with the same feisty spiritedness and wry, dark humor that characterize her best fiction. She has an unerring ear for the way people speak on the New York streets and a luminous, humane warmth that animates her writing with its generosity. Some of the Vietnam-era political pieces feel a trifle dated, and some might accuse Paley of political naivet‚ but that is a refreshing change from the ugly cynicism of many of her opponents.
A book to be dipped into repeatedly, if not read cover-to-cover, but a fine companion to Paley's memorable fictions.
- Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.98(w) x 7.84(h) x 0.89(d)
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