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December 12 , 2009

Later the Same Day


Grace Paley's stature among writers of short fiction was established by her first collection, The Little Disturbances of Man (1959), and reconfirmed with the publication of Enormous Changes at the Last Minute in 1974. This new book, a selection from her work over the past ten years, is appropriately titled Later the Same Day: Paley's concerns, or themes, have changed only as much as life's constants change with the passage of time. Those characters familiar to readers of her previous volumes have grown older but are still deeply involved with their parents, their lovers and friends, and their children – the past, present, and future – and the welfare of the wider community. We meet the neighborhood druggist with his tale of familiar heartbreak and small-time bigotry ("Zagrowsky Tells"); a willful father in Puerto Rico who cannot accept the obvious loss of his child by kidnapping ("In the Garden"); a black woman who mourns the fact that her daughter, "born in good cheer," has become only "busy and broad" ("Lavinia: An Old Story")' a visitor from China whose concern is about the children, how to raise them" (The Expensive Moment:); a craftsman whose beautiful creation is stillborn ("This is a Story about My Friend George, the Toy Inventor").

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The seenteen stories in Later the Same Day are marked by Paley's low-keyed humor, her rich but economical use of language, and her seemingly endless capacity for empathy. Their substance – the persistence of human and political concerns, despite practical pressures – subtly overwhelms less important matters.

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