cover image Just as I Thought

Just as I Thought

Grace Paley. Farrar Straus Giroux, $24 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-374-18060-7

In this disappointing miscellany of articles, speeches, interviews, prefaces, transcribed talks and a few scattered poems, Paley only occasionally displays the sharply perceptive sparkle of her memorable short story collections (Later the Same Day, etc.). The pieces, written from the mid-'60s through the mid-'90s for magazines as diverse as Ms. and Esquire, are often slight, dated or predictable. Among the notable selections are her frank discussion of her two abortions, her 1974 meeting in Moscow with dissident Andrei Sakharov, her loving appreciation of Russian writer Isaac Babel's short stories and an account of how her mother, traveling by bus to Virginia in 1927, insisted on sitting in the section reserved for blacks. Also included are a polemic against the Gulf war, tributes to such writers as Donald Barthelme and Clarice Lispector, on-site war reportage from North Vietnam and autobiographical sketches about growing up radical in the Bronx during the Depression with socialist Russian Jewish emigre parents. One comes away with the impression that Paley's long-time grass-roots involvement in diverse movements--feminist, antinuclear, environmental, antiwar--reflects a unitary struggle for social justice. (Apr.)