‘Wants’ by Grace Paley

Here is an object lesson in how to take a seeming triviality (these don’t really exist of course) and, in barely three pages, create from it a long life— several lives, in fact— laid bare and interrogated to the full. Paley does this every single time. The really important thing with Paley is the voice. From the highly specific milieu of working-class Jewish New York, this voice jumps off the page as if you’re reading a direct transcript of conversation. The choices here, though, are a writer’s choices. So much has been left out, with just enough left in to imply everything else.

(1971; now in The Collected Stories of Grace Paley, Little, Brown. Online here

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