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The Little Disturbances of Man

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  937 ratings  ·  71 reviews
With a sure and humorous touch, Grace Paley explores the "little disturbances" that lie behind our everyday lives. Whether writing about sexy little girls, loving and bickering couples, angry suburbanites, frustrated job-seekers, or Jewish children performing a Christmas play, she captures the loneliness, poignancy, and humor of human experience with matchless style.
Paperback, First Plume Printing, 189 pages
Published May 1st 1973 by Plume (first published 1959)
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Larry Bassett
This book of short stories was published in 1959 – a lifetime ago and it is still very fun to read. I love the NYC and Jewish settings.

I will steal some quotes from other GR reviews that say just what I would want to say about this book:
Half way through the first paragraph—“Only a person like your mama stands on one foot, she don’t notice how big her behind is getting and sings in the canary’s ear for thirty years. Who’s listening?”—I realized I was in the company of some very special literatu
Earlier this month I came across Grace Paley’s The Little Disturbances of Man on the clearance rack at Half Price Books. At two bucks, I knew this was a book to buy—I’d heard Paley’s name mentioned perhaps a dozen times in and around the Bennington campus—but that was all I knew of Paley. I began reading The Little Disturbances of Man oblivious to anything and everything about the author or her work.
Upon opening the book, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was a short story collectio
Less political than her second collection and maybe therefore not as charged or textured? Here's a self-critical comment cleverly embedded in the collection's last story:

"'What's the matter with you? Don't put yourself on a platter. What are you -- a roast duck, everything removable with a lousy piece of flatware? Be secret. Turn over on your side. Let them guess if you're stuffed. That's how I got where I am.' The organization of his ideas was all wrong; I was drawn to the memory of myself --
Adam Cherson
I rate this book a 3.7 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being best. A surprisingly readable set of vignettes from 1950s New York. Described as a set of little disturbances, these stories have the ring of Bellow to them, without the philosophical excursions (which could make them more accessible for many readers). Yes, I am saying that these stories are on a par with Bellow. They are stories about average people chasing their humble 1950s dreams heroically. Characterization is extremely pithy and poig ...more
Garrett Zecker
Beautiful short stories that may be some of the most notable of Paleys. She is a seamstress with characters that walk off of the page and transform into our brothers, sisters, grandparents, mothers, and fathers. This book outlines the sexually charged life we lead as human beings and how that can be complicated by communication, distance, closeness, and much more. Gorgeous little volume from a beautiful writer. This book will warm you in more ways than I can describe... After reading this, pick ...more
Ben Loory
i'd read and loved paley's story "wants" in an anthology somewhere and so i figured i'd try this collection of hers a try. unfortunately, this collection is her first, 12+ years before "wants," and the stories are much longer and "normaler" than that brilliant little jewel. it's impressive how she changes voices so completely and convincingly from one story to the next, but in the end only one of these stories (the first, "goodbye and good luck") actually had any emotional effect on me, and none ...more
Miguel Jiménez
Grace Paley tenía habilidad para deleitar al lector con historias donde predomina el tono jovial, compuesto de humor disparatado y ternura hacia sus personajes —los dos juntos son unomismo— pero a su vez muestra la contraparte contando una historia "seria" —casi siempre en el mismo relato—. Algo nada fácil y lo digo por el tono que se debe utilizar para cambiar de sintonía tan rápidamente. No se puede dejar de lado la inteligencia y creatividad par darle forma a la historia e ir estructurando ca ...more
Glenn Sumi
More than half a century after it was published, Grace Paley’s debut, The Little Disturbances Of Man, remains fierce, funny and startingly fresh.

The author had yet to discover her political activism – that would come a decade or so later, as chronicled in the appropriately-named Enormous Changes At The Last Minute (1974) – but this first book provides great insights into urban women and men dealing with sex, relationships and raising kids.

These stories pulse and throb with the ordinary struggles
«Ao fim destes dias regressei à minha vida. Quando nos encontrávamos, Vlashkin e eu, só nos saudávamos com Olá e Adeus, e depois durante alguns tristes anos apenas acenávamos com a cabeça, como que dizendo: «Sim, sim, sei quem tu és».

«Por exemplo, a gerência - gente de vistas curtas - já não lhe oferecia determinados papéis de personagens mais jovens. Tolos. Que homem mais novo saberia da vida o bastante para ser tão jovem quanto ele?»

Grace Paley, «Pequenas Contrariedades da Existência» (conto «
Victoria Ryan
The Little Disturbances of Man- Grace Paley
review by- Victoria Ryan

Grace Paley explores the “little disturbances” in her so aptly named “The Little Disturbances of Man”, with a collection of short stories and anecdotes. Paley tells about everything from young girls, couples in despair, and Jewish children in a Christmas play. “Little Disturbances” captures what it means to be human through recollections of loneliness and humor.

Each story involves a new set of characters and a new perspective wi
Cecillia V.
The Little Disturbances of Man: a compilation of eleven short stories written by Grace Paley. Written in New York in 1959, this collection of stories involves real love, real life, and the real city of New York. This collection can serve as a Bible for women in relationships. It gives a variety of situations; some that you would never think you could experience in a lifetime but are certainly possible. It serves as a compilation of experiences that would give advice for any woman in a relationsh ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
"I held him so and rocked him. I cradled him. I closed my eyes and leaned on his dark head. But the sun in its course emerged from among the water towers of downtown office buildings and suddenly shone white and bright on me. Then through the short fat fingers of my son, interred forever, like a black and whited barred king in Alcatraz, my heart lit up in stripes." - p. 145
I've read this paragraph about thirty times in the last few days and might continue to read it every day from now on so that
Mi ha colpito Grace Paley, o meglio, mi hanno colpito i suoi racconti: perché sono fuori dal coro, perché possiedono un ritmo insolito, si muovono come uccelli sui rami, sono composti da un orecchio perfetto.
Piccole storie, molto dialogate, che con una frase, con un pensiero trasportano anni dopo, poche pagine per racchiudere squarci di esistenze, banali solo in apparenza: possiedono la magia unica del quotidiano, l’incessante rumore di gioia che arriva
I found this uneven. The first stories were incredible and filled me with obsessive love for Grace Paley, but I liked them less as I went and found the last story nearly unreadable.

Nonetheless, on balance it was way more awesome than bad, and my obsessive love for Grace Paley lives on.
One of the best story collections ever written. My review at Guernica is here:

The first story is like the first chapter of Pride and Prejudice, a perfect piece of comic writing. Once you strip away the differentiating markers--American, Jewish, twentieth-century, etc.--Paley might be the truest literary sister to Jane Austen. Her characters learn what Austen's heroines would have learned past the endpoint of their books: that the quadrille of anxiety, jeal
When I am traveling I want Grace with me. Her stories about interactions between men and women help me stay grounded, not as if I am hurtling through the air at 35,000 feet. This is very helpful and I suppose its because her stories all take place in New York City. On my most recent trip I took her first book of short stories because I realized I had never read it all the way through. I wanted to like it the best of her three, but I don't. The stories are funny and wry, but without the depth, in ...more
Marci Lambert
I've had this book for a while and finally dug into it. The language and pacing seem very rooted in the 60s and I think it would have been a blast to read it when it came out. Now it does feel dated but it was still a great read. Glad I read it.
Full of characters I guess I'd call jaunty, tough, smart in the sense of freshness. The first five stories are tight and efficient, the back five expand a little, all are top notch except maybe the last, which seems to kind of plunge into a completely other aesthetic region. The book never flinches away from difficulty or sexuality, and although the sarcastic/cheeky narrative voice is not generally my favorite sort, something (perhaps the not-too-sensitive, uneducated nature of the characters) s ...more
With Paley’s first story collection (1959) she comes right out of the (metaphorical) box with great writing and quirky (that’s a compliment) stories.
And she only got better.

Goodbye and Good Luck ****0 (4 stars)
A Woman, Young and Old ***00
The Pale Pink Roast ***00
The Loudest Voice ***00
The Contest ***00
An Interest in Life ****0
An Irrevocable Diameter ****0
Two Short Stories from a Long and Happy Life
1-The Used-Boy Raisers ***00
2-A Subject of Childhood ***00
In Time Which Made a Monkey of Us All *
Grace Paley's first and best collection of stories, this includes some of the finest stories written by an American in the past 50 years: although it is hard to choose, I would say my favorites are "The Loudest Voice" and "In Time Which Made a Monkey of Us All." Paley rarely wrote again at this level, as her admirable commitments to political activism and teaching necessarily distracted her from her writing. I ran into Paley at the MLA conference a couple of years ago before she passed away and ...more
In of these stories a guy drops his towel and says, "Behold the man."
Diana Skelton
"They were astonished at my outburst, since I rarely express my opinion on any serious matter but only live out my destiny, which is to be, until my expiration date, laughingly the servant of man."

"I have no reason to lie," I said. "I am in the hand of God."
"Who?" the judge shouted. Then they all mumbled together in an effort to figure out what could be done with the contemptible sue of pious nomenclature. They could not say, of course, that we are not in the hand of God when, for all they knew
Some of the most incredible and surprising sentences I've ever read.
Some pretty terrific stories with quite awe-inducing sentences. Paley's descriptions and the weaving of her characters' stories in such short bursts are robust; sometimes sad, other times comedic. There were one or two stories I couldn't delve into quite as much - something off with the characters, the unrealistic dialogue. But though the female characters in her stories range from stubborn to wry to self-conscious, I loved them all. There was always something in those characters and their lives ...more
Chris Landry
I picked this up at Frantic City Books in advance of a trip that never happened. I've been carrying it around with me ever since and only occasionally picking at it. I wanted to like this much more because I was really impressed with the stories Paley read on Writers and Company. And when this book was good it was pretty good. But the not so exciting stories were not enough. This collection didn't always even feel tied together thematically (they're not always "at love").
There is a frankness and wit here, as well as the palpable love you want in any short story, that just breaks you in half. In Paley's case the love is entwined with sex-- one turns into the other and back again. That may sound sort of precious, but she is hilarious and fun. I hate when people refer to her as "saucy" or "brazen," as if Philip Roth or Saul Bellow weren't saucy or brazen, but you can't deny that she is.
Delia Pless
A beautiful collection. the dialogue floats in such an exciting way.

"the floating truth," "the pale pink roast," "an irrevocable diameter," and "two sad stories from a long and happy life" are my favorites

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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...
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“I unknot his tie and offer him a cold sandwich. He raps my backside, paying attention to the bounce. I walk around him as though he were a Maypole, kissing as I go.
“I lost my cuff link, goddamnit” he says, and drops to the floor to look for it. I go down too on my knees, but I know he never had a cuff link in his life. Still I would do a lot for him.
“Got you off you feet that time,” he says, laughing. “Oh yes, I did.” And before I can even make myself half comfortable on that polka-dotted linoleum, he got onto me right where we were, and the truth is, we were so happy, we forgot the precautions.”
“Let her live in the air,' said Peter. 'I bet you do. Let her love her body.'
'Let her,' said Anna sadly.”
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