‘Wants’ by Grace Paley

Paley, Grace 1971

Wants by Grace Paley, 1971

The magic trick:

Combining two events into one commentary

Two things. A fairly dramatic conversation between our narrator and her ex-husband. And a not-very-dramatic errand in which our narrator returns some library books and pays her fines.

Taken alone each thing would not have all that much literary power. But joined up, they become intertwined poetically. They bounce off each other as the narrator assesses her life, her mistakes and her hopes. It seems a simple way to write, but I’m sure it is not so easy. And that’s quite a trick on Paley’s part,

The selection:

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 an effective citizen who changes the school system and addresses the Board of Estimate on the troubles of this dear urban center.


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