Soft-Speaking Tough Souls

Joyce Carol Oates

  • The Collected Stories of Grace Paley
    Virago, 398 pp, £12.99, January 1998, ISBN 1 86049 423 4

How aptly named: Grace Paley. For ‘grace’ is perhaps the most accurate, if somewhat poetic, term to employ in speaking of this gifted writer who has concentrated on short, spare fiction through a career of nearly five decades. First published in 1959 with The Little Disturbances of Man, Grace Paley immediately drew an audience of readers who were not only admiring but loving. Her subsequent collections of stories – Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1974) and Later the Same Day (1985) – confirmed her reputation as a lyricist of the domestic life, a poet in prose whose ear for the Jewish-American vernacular suggests a kinship with her older contemporaries, Singer, Malamud and Bellow.

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