Monday, April 30, 2007

The Little Disturbances of Man, Grace Paley

I finally read Grace Paley. She was someone I have wanted to explore for years. The short stories in The Little Disturbances of Man must have been rather controversial when they first appeared. Not only would the content have been shocking for many in a late 1950s audience, but the form of the stories must have been unique and perhaps difficult to read for those used to a structured narrative.

Paley does not provide introductions for her plot or characters. The stories just begin and end like we are peering into the characters' private lives for a brief moment. It is through conversation that the various personalities are developed. Paley is a master at creating realistic conversation. The stories also have a rich New York feel.

Due to the nature of the form and heavy use of dialogue, these stories are not easy to read. I was often reminded of Tillie Olsen. Paley challenges the reader and wastes no time with sentimentality - like Olsen.

A man at my book club meeting commented that the writing resembles poetry. I agree. Paley is for those who like to think about literature; she is, fortunately, not merely for entertainment.


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