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Just As I Thought by Grace Paley

Just As I Thought

by Grace Paley

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As much as Grace Paley was a defining voice in the American short story in the second half of the 20th century, she was perhaps even more well-known at the time as an advocate for social justice, a peace activist, a feminist, an anti-nuclear protester, a defender of those downtrodden by patriarchal forces in American business and politics, and a really nice grandmother. Whether it was joining with other women to safeguard music in a local park, or participating in a sit-in in order to block the development of two nuclear power stations, or travelling to North Vietnam in 1968 and returning with three captured American pilots, Grace Paley was there. It’s astonishing to discover just how often she was present at events, giving a voice to issues through her pen, fighting the good fight. Raised in a Jewish socialist household in New York City, she survived the Great Depression, World War II, the birth of the anti-war movement during the Vietnam war, and was still there on the scene raising her honest voice of protest during the first Gulf War. Yet the collection of articles, forewords, introductions, speeches, recollections, and poems collected here will simply reaffirm for the reader her absolute commitment to truth in writing. Her ever-distinctive voice entices with humour and good grace. You can’t help but wish you had known her yourself. And maybe, through her short stories, poetry, and these pieces, you really have.

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  RandyMetcalfe | Mar 4, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374180601, Hardcover)

With their loopy sense of humor, pervasive sorrow, and Lower East Side vernacular, Grace Paley's stories have earned her a permanent place in American literature. Now her publisher has collected almost three decades of essays, reviews, and lectures, which amount to cumulative, if oblique, self-portrait. "This is not an autobiographical collection," she writes in her introduction, "but it is about my life." Since Paley's life has encompassed not only literature but a long involvement in politics, there are pungent takes on the women's movement, anti-nuke protests, and Vietnam. Yet she's too hard-headed to write even a single sentence of polemical drivel; her political prose is always personal. Here, for example, she attends a Quaker sit-in at the Seabrook nuclear site: "I'm not very good at Friends meetings. My mind refuses to prevent my eyes from looking at the folks around me, and I'm often annoyed because I can't get the drift of the murmur of private witness. I did hear one young man near me say, 'May your intercession here today be the fruit of our action.' I think this means 'God helps those that help themselves,' a proverb that sounds meaner than it really is." And when it comes to literature and writing, Paley is tremendous. Her short essays on Isaac Babel and Donald Barthelme are themselves worth the price ofpurchase. In Just As I Thought, the author accomplishes exactly what she ascribes to Babel, producing "clarity, presentness, tension, and a model of how always, though with great difficulty, to proceed."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:59 -0400)

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