Friday, 4 June 2010

Enormous changes at the last minute (Paley) 9

I picked up Enormous changes at the last minute in the Books and Comics Exchange in Notting Hill simply because it was a green Virago (in excellent condition) that I hadn't read; this was much to the potential dismay of my companion who would have nabbed it if she had seen it first. She told me that it was rather collectable and that Paley's writing is pretty well respected.

It's a book of short stories, some are very short indeed, set in New York, and mainly dealing with characters falling in and out of love. Because it's a short story volume (because, Paley, who never published a novel apparently once said "Art is too long, and life is too short. There's a lot more to do in life than just writing), I wasn't sure that it would be a keeper. But it is, if just for the first story, "Wants".

A mere 2.5pp long, "Wants" is the story of a woman returning two very overdue library books (themselves VMCs - Wharton's House of mirth, and The children). She runs into her ex-husband, and then begins to reflect on what she wants from life:

"I want, for instance, to be a different person. I Want to be the woman who brings these two books back in two weeks. I want to be the effective citizen who changes the school system and addresses the Boart of Estimate of the troubles of this dear urban centrer. I had promised my children to end the war before they grew up. I wanted to have been married forever to one person..."

But she realises that at least she has returned the library books this time, so may be in a position ultimately to do something about her wants.


  1. My mum was reading this the last time I went home and I sneakily read 'Wants' while she was out. I may try and borrow the book next time I'm there as you've reminded me of how much I enjoyed it.

  2. What a lovely post, Verity! If I hadn't already wanted to read this then you would have entirely convinced me; now I just have to remember where I put the copy that you prompted me to purchase...

    The description of "Wants" is very familiar; I think JoAnn reviewed it for Short Story Mondays once.

    There's a Paley story in Wayward Girls and Wicked Women but I think it is from another volume.

  3. Tealady - it is a lovely volume - beg, borrow, steal...

    Claire - I am glad you got a copy too - I think you will love the stories. Thanks for your enthusiasm re Paley!