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The Collected Stories

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  2,310 Ratings  ·  160 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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Mar 30, 2012 Fionnuala rated it really liked it

This book contains 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. They were all grouped into one collection in 1994, and this edition was published in 2007, the year Grace Paley died at the age of eighty-five.

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, wh
Dov Zeller
I love Grace Paley. My cousin gave me this book as a gift I don't know how many years ago, and I turn to it again and again. Last night some friends were over and they wanted books to read and went through my bookshelves and practically threw books at them saying, "take this, you can keep it. Take this, you can keep it." But when I got to Grace Paley I said, "Take this, but I need it back."

Even the titles of the stories couldn't get better.

Goodbye and Good Luck (a classic, and one which I first
Larry Bassett
Oct 09, 2011 Larry Bassett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
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
While Grace Paley's often grouped with Raymond Carver, the comparisons really aren't that many. In fact, her early stories bear few comparisons, and it's rather wonderful to see Grace Paley evolve as a writer over the course of these stories, from very much a New York Jewish-ghetto writer of the '50s a la Malamud to an '80s minimalist (without falling into the cliches that accompanied that particular literary movement). But, rather than coming off as a follower of fashion, she has the same inter ...more
Jan 26, 2009 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 13, 2007 Mike rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 28, 2012 Jesse rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
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
Feb 15, 2011 Melissa Ward rated it it was ok
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
Oct 24, 2009 Shane rated it it was ok
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
Jul 17, 2007 Jenna rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 02, 2014 Maggie rated it really liked it
Shelves: unfinished
Excellent, but not a thing to be consumed all at once. Since it's been months, I could probably dip into this again.
Brian Clegg
A while ago on Facebook some of my friends with far more experience in good fiction than me were enthusing over the short story writing of Grace Paley, so I determined to give her writing a go. I'm glad I did - but, if I'm honest, the stories just don't work for me and I gave up about two thirds of the way through. I had two problems with these mostly short short stories set in a seedy period New York (contemporary when written) - the style and the content.

The style problems were a mix of langua
Matt Hlinak
Oct 01, 2012 Matt Hlinak rated it it was amazing
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
Dan Shurley
Grace Paley's Faith putting her curvilinear shoulder to the wheel, leafleting, child-bearing. The truth bubbles up from these incomplete, tantalizing accounts of this and that. It floats up lighter than the base materials that ground a life and it is of them too. Paley's aching, floating truths are situated in the deli sandwich realm, where one smiles a burned-over zen smile or one doesn't smile at all as one takes one's change.

“Of course, because of this planet, which is dropping away from us i
Feb 10, 2008 jesse rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 18, 2011 Saxon rated it really liked it
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
Jan 29, 2008 Julia rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 28, 2012 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-finished
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
Feb 13, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing
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.
May 18, 2014 Vonetta rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 03, 2011 Jessica rated it did not like it
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.
Ted Krever
Apr 19, 2011 Ted Krever rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Grace Paley tells wonderful stories that leave you in the middle, wondering what the hell happened. For a writer, she's the master class in what to say and what to withhold. And such a voice! The Bronx births great storytellers and she's one of the best.
Jan 25, 2008 Jack rated it really liked it
Wow. I had no idea Grace Paley was so compelling. I'd always heard her name tossed around Alice Munro's and thought they had a similar in prose style. But they don't.

I particularly like her short shorts - puzzling and fireworky, slightly off-putting.
First Second Books
She's a magician. She does things with the English language that I can't explain, but they're transporting and haunting and they color your life for days after reading them.
Oct 23, 2010 Anina rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I just love about 1/3 of her stuff and am baffled by the rest of it.
May 10, 2016 Gary rated it really liked it
I only read An Interest in Life. Snappy, creative, terse, real, slice of life very well written.
Ellen Wittlinger
Oct 11, 2016 Ellen Wittlinger rated it it was amazing
Grace Paley is one of my all-time favorite writers, though her output is slim. Nobody uses voice as skillfully as she does. These stories are amazing.
Dec 01, 2013 Diane marked it as to-read
Another Ann Patchett recommendation.
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500 Great Books B...: The Collected Stories - Grace Paley - Fionnuala 1 7 Aug 01, 2014 12:22PM  
Grace Paley - Collected Stories 1 9 Jan 20, 2009 09:45PM  
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Grace Paley was an American short story writer, poet, and political activist whose work won a number of awards.
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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.” 5 likes
“The men don’t like their wives so much. They only get married if it’s a good idea.” Faith” 1 likes
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