‘The Little Disturbances of Man’ Turns 60

Revelation and Return:
Sixty Years of Grace Paley’s
The Little Disturbances of Man

Justin Taylor Revisits an Essential American Writer

By Justin Taylor

I think I’m being haunted by Grace Paley a little and if it’s true I suppose I’m boasting. I’ve known her work for what feels like forever, during which time she’s been variously on and off my radar — you know how these things go — but I had felt a renewed interest brewing for most of 2019, kinda tied to this Jewish thing I’ve been going through, and her name kept popping up in unexpected places (a rock band’s newsletter?) so in late August I tossed my copy of her Collected Stories into my carry-on luggage and took it with me to the Vermont Studio Center, where I read it every day for the whole month of September and then kept reading it after I got home.

I had forgotten until I got there that Paley lived in Vermont later in her life, was the state’s poet laureate for a while, and had even been involved with the Studio Center. All I was thinking about (other than the Jewish thing) was getting myself back to writing stories after taking a long time off from fiction to write a memoir about my father. I thought Paley would light a fire for me because I knew her work, but not well enough and not lately, so it would be both familiar and strange to me: at once a revelation and a return. (Which is a lot like the Jewish thing, come to think of it.) At VSC I got assigned to the Emile Zola Studio, which happens to be next door to the Grace Paley Studio, and I admit that I was jealous of the poet who had lucked into it, but we shared a wall at least. I consoled myself with adjacency, and the fact that even though I couldn’t boast her name on my doorpost, I had 30 years’ worth of her stories in my hand. Read the full piece at LitHub.

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