Think of the pieces here as a series of scale models that together encapsulate Paley’s generous sensibility.



Has there ever been an author like Paley?

A poet and essayist but primarily a short story writer, she functioned, before her death in 2007 at age 84, as a kind of conscience to the culture, an activist who saw art-making as political from the start. Before she became a writer, she was a committed localist, working to improve Greenwich Village’s parks and schools during the 1950s, when she had two school-age children of her own. This notion of community, and commitment, pervades her writing, presented in all its brilliant and elusive glory in this omnibus. Drawing from the efforts of a lifetime—the story collections The Little Disturbances of Man, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, and Later the Same Day; the book of essays Just As I Thought; and a selection of more than 30 poems—the idea is to showcase her versatility. But if Paley is a better fiction writer than a poet or essayist (her short stories are among the finest produced by an American), the result is to remind us of her vision, her consistency. As a writer, Paley stands outside the usual categories, blurring naturalism with postmodernism, straddling the old world and the new. The collection highlights that without belaboring the point. Look at the magnificent “Goodbye and Good Luck,” in which a spinster aunt confesses to her niece that she is getting married; “I was popular in certain circles, says Aunt Rose,” the story begins. Or “A Conversation with My Father,” which opens with a request: “I would like you to write a simple story just once more,” the narrator’s aging father asks. “Just recognizable people and then write down what happened to them next.” Still, try as she might, the narrator can’t hide the fact that this is the sort of writing, “the absolute line between two points,” she has “always despised…because it takes all hope away. Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.” For Paley, that’s the key to her perspective, regardless of the genre in which she works. “What does a writer leave behind?” George Saunders asks in his introduction. “Scale models of a way of seeing and thinking.”

Think of the pieces here as a series of scale models that together encapsulate Paley’s generous sensibility.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-16582-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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