Picks and Pans Review: Later the Same Day
by Grace Paley
A new volume of short stories by Paley is an occasion for celebration. It's been much too long since Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1974), her last collection. In "Dreamer in a Dead Language," in this new volume, a woman named Faith (who appears in several of the stories—does she stand in for Grace?) takes her two children to visit her parents at a nursing home. Her father, a garrulous old man, takes her for a stroll and points out a bench that is a memorial to a 6-year-old child. "It's a terrible thing to die young," he says. "Still, it saves a lot of time. Get it?" Later he says, "I have to tell you a fact. People's brains, I notice, are disappearing all around me. Every day." Faith, her life a mess because her ex-husband owes her money, doesn't want to hear about it. Many women in Paley's stories have marched in antiwar demonstrations, and in "Friends" they are referred to as "opinionated left-wing ladies." They are certainly tough. Paley couples her rich, complex portrayals of urban lives with a marvelous ear, so accurate that she can convincingly capture the thought processes of an illiterate black as she does in "Lavinia: An Old Story." And Paley can delight a reader's senses by noting of a window box the "April-cooled marigolds with their rusty smell of summer." Paley is exact. She promises a lot. She delivers. (Farrar Straus Giroux, $13.95)
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