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The Collected Stories

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  1,867 ratings  ·  126 reviews
This reissue of Grace Paley’s classic collection—a finalist for the National Book Award—demonstrates her rich use of language as well as her extraordinary insight into and compassion for her characters, moving from the hilarious to the tragic and back again. Whether writing about the love (and conflict) between parents and children or between husband and wife, or about the ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 3rd 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1994)
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Review date: April 6th 2012
This is really three separate volumes of short stories, The Little Disturbances of Man from 1959, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute from 1974 and Later the Same Day from 1985, all published together in 1994 - this edition came out in 2007, the year Grace Paley died, aged 85.

The stories mostly concern a group of interconnected characters in the Bronx whose lives from early motherhood to late middle age are charted right through the collection, which makes it particul
Larry Bassett
There are three short story collections gathered in this single hard cover. I am going to locate my reviews in their original individual books:

The Little Disturbances of Man was first published in 1959 and is reviewed at

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute was first published in 1974 and is reviewed at

Later the Same Day was first published in 1985 and is reviewed at

All three
Second reading of The Little Disturbances of Man and Enormous Changes at the Last Minute. First reading of Later the Same Day.

the stories are small in scale--domestic settings; blocks, neighborhood playgrounds--but she fills them with rich, aphoristic asides that are not only cosmically wise but really funny. it's interesting, for all the second-person, interiority-oriented writing, paley's stories are fundamentally social. you get to know the characters, sure, but you never really feel inside them, you only have the pleasure of sharing the room with them. the best part is that none of them are outrightly exceptional; ...more
I found the variety of styles in this weirdly hit-and-miss. When she's good, she is EXCELLENT, but when she's not excellent she's often engaged in experiments I'm not terribly interested in, or pursuing increasingly long tangents that don't engage me. I think I'd have felt differently had I listened to her reading aloud before and during the process of reading these stories, so I had her voice in my head, they wouldn't have felt quite as disconnected as they did.
Melissa Ward
Grace Paley – The Collected Stories
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994

The late Grace Paley was a woman filled with life and experiences bursting from every seam. The Collected Stories is praised as a finely polished group of Paley’s short stories that let the reader into the small, everyday moments of her life, however the stories did not entirely live up to their reputation. They are certainly a window into a conversation over eggs in the kitchen, or a loving moment between mother and son on the s
Spring is a great time to be reading Grace Paley. Her skittish snapshots of lives lived in (often cheerful) disarray woke my brain right out of its winter hibernation. These aren’t stories to curl up with on a cold evening, although there’s real warmth to Paley’s writing; you need all your wits about you as a reader, to get the most out of this collection.

Two short sad stories from a long and happy life: A subject of childhood tells of a moment in the life of Faith, a woman who reappears in sev
This wasn't an easy book to read, as the style was very spoken-stream of consciousness, as if the various narrators were involved in a fragmented dialogue with their readers. I guess it was a new style for its time - I am not sure however that it can endure. In the end I want a story.

I found some of the shorter pieces began in one place and landed somewhere completely diffferent, with new information provided just before they ended, thereby altering the traditional structure of story.

The Yiddish
I can't believe it took me so long to read Grace Paley. She passes away a couple weeks ago, and having tackled just a small percentage of her work up to this point, I can truly comprehend the loss felt by the literary world. So strong, so ahead of her time. One of those writers who make you feel like you never really understood how good a sentence could be.
Matt Hlinak
The most distinctive story in this collection is “A Man Told Me the Story of His Life.” Although the title and first two words of the story are told by an unidentified narrator, the rest of the piece is presented in the voice of Vicente. Paley’s use of diction conveys information about the character that goes beyond what we learn from his narrative. The manner of Vicente’s speech makes it clear that English is not his first language. It is at times overly formal, such as when he proclaims, “Oh, ...more
CH Keyes
Grace Paley’s collection of short stories is amazing. Once started, I had to find out more about her. This article is from the August 23, 2007, New York Times:
Ms. Paley was among the earliest American writers to explore the lives of women — mostly Jewish, mostly New Yorkers — in all their dailiness. She focused especially on single mothers, whose days were an exquisite mix of sexual yearning and pulverizing fatigue. In a sense, her work was about what happened to the women that Roth and Bellow a
Oh, as time went on, as our responsibilities increased, we didn't go in need. You took adaquate financial care, I reminded him. The children went to camp four weeks a year and in decent ponchos with sleeping bags and boots, just like everyone else. They looked very nice. Our place was warm in winter, and we had nice red pillows and things.

I wanted a sailboat, he said. But you didn't want anything.

Don't be bitter, I said. It's never too late.

No, he said with a great deal of bitterness. I may get
Paley's stories revolve around the everyday lives of everyday people with a focus on women and yiddish culture in NYC. While she only wrote short stories, reoccurring characters constantly appear adding a level of cohesive continuity with each each story. Almost all of the stories take place around World War 2 and after all the way up to the mid 60s leading to socio-political themes that undercut each piece. However, this isn't Paley's MO. She's interested in the real lives of real people and na ...more
Paley has an incredible wit and a talent for expressing the complex political nature of women's lives. I loved her stories because they are simultaneously hysterical and sad, kind of like life in general. My favorite book growing up was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I think I like Paley because she resonates with me in the same way as ATGIB did, only I've grown up since then and Paley reflects this process of maturation. They both tell the story of "old New York," from the 1930s, to the 1970s, on ...more
Suzanne Conboy-Hill
This is highly rated on Goodreads and so either I am missing something or I have no taste for this style of writing. These stories are idiosyncratic, quirky, amusing, conversational, and with some surprising twists or bumps in the road at times. But they are pretty much all the same; the same voice, the same rhythm, the same bizarre ordinariness. I enjoyed the first, was amused by the second, and then read the rest until I gave up at page 149 (of 398) - I quite honestly could not see myself plou ...more
I really wanted to like this. I got it sent across an ocean just so I could teach one of the stories in a class of mine. However, the story that I knew and loved was the only one that I found even readable, except for a few of the shortest 2-4 page stories. I am being literal, I could not finish the majority of even these SHORT stories. Her use of language is so bizarre, so simply not English. Occasional quirks show a window into another perspective, but these constant verbal inventions literall ...more
Interesting stories.

It seems right to dedicate this collection to my friend Sybil Claiborne, my colleague in the Writing and Mother Trade. I visited her fifth-floor apartment on Barrow Street one day in 1957. There before my very eyes were her two husbands disappointed by the eggs. After that we talked and talked for nearly forty nears. Then she died. Three days before that, she said slowly, with the delicacy of an unsatisfied person with only a dozen words left, Grace, the real question is -- h
A fantastic collection of stories, full of voices, humans, people. interconnected by a handful of recurring characters, preeminently Faith, an author surrogate i suppose but also an intelligent, political, loving single mother finding her way from moderately young womanhood through to middle age in new york city and life. the collection includes all three of paley's books of stories, spanning 35 years or so of writing and maybe a similar span in the lives of the characters.
Did I read every story in this book? No. You know why? Because I couldn't stomach the goodness any longer. Really. I, in all honesty, need to let what I did read soak in real good before I continue. If I may use the vernacular: Paley is messed up. These stories are messed the hell up in the most wonderful kinds of ways: characters, dialogue, ridiculous plots. I need to swallow down some other works before I can continue, but I'm excited to pick this book back up soon.
I've been trying to finish this book for over six months and I just couldn't do it. I had to give up even though I read more than 300 pages. The stories have fragmented plots and dialogues making them difficult to follow. I know Paley is supposed to be a revolutionary story writer in terms of her style and her ear for dialogue but I could not get into this. Not an enjoyable read.
I just love about 1/3 of her stuff and am baffled by the rest of it.
Susan Merrell
So fabulous, and worthy of rereading and rereading. Paley has the great confidence of voice that makes her a perfect example for student reading. Over the course of her career, she explored women's lives and parenting with such a consistent, remarkable eye that almost any individual story can be selected at random, and will reveal perfect technique and originality of ideas. The moment in "Friends" when she describes people meeting on the street after a long time, "When they meet in the street, m ...more
Nov 18, 2008 Xconx rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Xconx by: book group choice based on NPR review
I really enjoyed reading these stories, especially the earliest and the latest. In the earliest, the language has the sound of sentences first constructed in Russian then translated into English, but with words selected from a Thesaurus, never those a native speaker would choose. But that gives a fresh perspective on what is said. It is interesting that the first story is about Aunt Rose, pitied by her married sister for not having a husband. Rose tells her story and it is significant, I think, ...more
While Grace Paley's style is unique and fascinating for a time, after getting about half way through this collection it became quite clear to me I wasn't going to make it -- and I NEVER start reading a book without finishing. I had expected her subject matter to be of great interest to me -- she was a Jewish feminist 20th century writer, and all of her stories take place in New York City. But I found the stories so depressing and her view of life to be so devoid of meaning, that I simply could n ...more
Nicola Cataldo
Grace Paley is one of the icons, I think, of the short story. A voice as true as the ring of a bell, a feel for characters as complex and vulgar as bedrock of America. I still can't fathom that these were written so long ago, because this writer is modern, quirky, nobody''s idea of a civilized lady. Thank god.
Some short fiction is meant to be devoured, consumed; other stories should be taken in small doses and savored. Grace Paley’s stories feel like the second kind, but I mistook them for the first. It’s become a habit of mine, reading through my large (and growing) library of story collections, to read one or two per day, which is fine for the smaller collections. But any group of thirty or forty or more, as with Paley’s Collected Stories, starts to feel like more of a chore than an enjoyable read, ...more
Kylin Larsson
What I like best about Paley's stories are her cut-to-the-chase descriptions that give so much information in relatively few words. For example: "Her forehead was damp, mouth slightly open between drags, a furious and sweaty face, hardly made up except around the eyes, but certainly cared for, cheeks scrubbed and eyebrows brushed, a lifetime's deposit of vitamins, the shiny daughter of cash in the bank.... I took her cigarette and killed it between forefinger and thumb. Then she looked at me and ...more
Nov 21, 2008 Robin rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who like to read short stories
Recommended to Robin by: ABC Bookclub list 2008
This was the book that my book club read and discussed for November. There were only 7 of us at the meeting but we happily talked about a writer that we all feel like we should have read years ago who introduces readers to a different part of American life: women who are caring for their children in the 1940s in New York City. Grace Paley's stories aren't necessarily happy but, as one member discovered, they do have hope in them. She read a review that mentioned that and dug deep into a story an ...more
The stories are like walking into the middle of a low-key, well-made film. You appreciate the beauty and the language and the imagery, but sometimes you have no idea what is going on. The stories are not linear and end up going in strange places. They are generally about domestic life, and according to Joyce Carol Oates, whose essay introduced me to Paley, it is "prose meant to be read aloud, as an expression of 'voice,' not a resolution of plot." Indeed, Paley has a way with expressions and phr ...more
A. Kuhlii
Really excellent writer who is especially gifted in imagery and creating both vivid impressions of the present and highly individual senses of the past. Complex characters and perspectives. I would prefer to read the stories in shorter editions or the original collections, though, because you need time to let them sink in. This is not something you can speed read through because your library copy's due tomorrow.
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Grace Paley was an American short story writer, poet, and political activist whose work won a number of awards.
More about Grace Paley...
Enormous Changes at the Last Minute The Little Disturbances of Man Later the Same Day Fidelity: Poems Begin Again: Collected Poems

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“Air was filtering out of my two collapsing lungs. Water rose, bubbling to enter, and I would have died of instantaneous pneumonia - something I have never heard of - if my hand had not got hold of a glass ashtray and, entirely apart from my personal decision, flung it.” 1 likes
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