The Pale Pink Roast by Grace Paley, 1959
The magic trick:
Presenting a dramatic conflict/situation but ending it with a far less dramatic resolution
Yet another excellent story from Grace Paley’s early years.
This story plays with high-drama conflict only to surprise with a mild resolution. A divorced couple get together again for an afternoon, sending their child away with an impromptu babysitter so they can talk and sleep together. It’s extreme stuff. What is going on? How do they feel? It must be black and white! The reader expects it to me. Even the ex-husband, Peter, seems to expect it, building the narrative of his life as some kind of easy-to-solve cause-and-effect equation.
But it’s not. Everything is gray. None of this means one thing or another. Are they going to get back together again? Probably not. Does this mean the woman is going to leave her new husband? Almost certainly not.
The story operates in those gray areas in between. And that’s quite a trick on Paley’s part.
“I take care of myself, Anna, that’s why. Vegetables, high proteins, I’m not the night owl I was, grapefruit, sunlight, ah, sunlight that’s my dear love now.”
“You always did take care of yourself, Peter.”
“No, Anna, this is different.” He stopped and settled on a box of curtains. “It’s not egocentric and selfish, the way I used to be. Now it has a real philosophical basis.”
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