Jim Grimsley's Reviews > Later the Same Day

Later the Same Day by Grace Paley
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really liked it

When I first read this collection years ago I must have been going through a period of distraction; the voices of the stories were clear but the stories themselves never came through. This was clearly my own failing. On rereading the book I found it to be wrought cleanly and sparely, reliant on the voices of this particular set of women - Faith, Ruth, Ann, sometimes others - to do the work of narrative. Paley is preoccupied with politics, justice, the idea of enlightenment through intellectual engagement; with children, perhaps more than any other aspect of family. "Dreamer in a Dead Language" ends with such a beautiful moment, a woman asking her children to bury her in sand, snapping at the one son who takes her too seriously, who fails to see she means to be buried as people are at the beach, not in a graveyard. "So I can give you a good whack every now and then." The final story, "Listening," ends with a gorgeously angry Cassie demanding to know why she and her love for women have been left out of Faith's tales, and a moment of love at the end, along with the promise from Cassie, "I will not forgive you." I vacillated at times in irritation at the obsessive politics - obsessive being my own judgment, of course - though it is examined and critiqued even while its essence is upheld. This is particularly the case in "Somewhere Else," about a trip to China, where we see the characters coping with the fact of China when they had preferred, perhaps, to visit the ideal China of their politics. "Zagrowsky Tells" is another example of the self-critiquing aspect of the stories, Faith's dialog with a white shop owner whom she picketed and accused of racism, and his defense of himself through his love for his black grandson. There is a clumsiness to that story, however, one of the rare moments of that kind in the book. There is also overall a narrowness to the stories themselves - they are devoted to the same themes, the same relationships, the same politics. This is their mission, after all. But the beauty of the spoken language of these characters is rare. I had enjoyed Paley's earlier books and am glad to have tried this one again.
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Finished Reading
November 15, 2020 – Shelved

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