I meant to tell you that in amongst all this travelling I'm making time to nip over to New York once a day at the moment.
Just occasionally I heed what Susan Hill says and read one of her recommends...just occasionally.
Ages ago there was a fine anecdotal tribute on her blog following the death of Grace Paley and I took note.
One thing leads to another.
That chance e mail from Glad Day Books offering a book to review.
I followed it up and the copy of Edges O Israel O Palestine by Leora Skulkin Smith arrived in a huge lorry via Fedex .
These FedEx lorries make such an effort to find us I feel duty-bound to return the effort by reading the books they deliver.Cheery drivers who are way off their normal routes but never moan, unlike others who greet you as you open the door with some remark about 'the middle of bloody nowhere this'.
Background reading on Glad Day Books and with it the information that they had been backed by Grace Paley.
I really should read her short stories I think.
So on January 1st I embarked on a Paley-A-Day and they have proved the perfect counter-balance to any over-indulgence in Max Sebald or Joseph Roth melancholy, in fact one a day is hardly enough because they are often side-splittingly funny.I want to gorge on the complete top tray and sneak the caramels off the bottom tray too, but I'm being very very good and sticking to the prescribed one a day and it keeps me chuckling until the next one.
Sticking in my mind the The Loudest Voice, Jewish immigrant children in New York all cast in their school's nativity play. Shirley Abramovitz gets the lead role because she has the loudest voice and her mother Clara can't quite decide whether she's proud or peeved over it all as she discusses it with Shirley's father Misha,
'You're in America! Clara, you wanted to come here.In Palestine the Arabs would be eating you alive. Europe you had pogroms.Argentina is full of Indians. Here you got Christmas...Some joke, ha?
Very funny, Misha, what is becoming of you? If we come to a new country a long time ago to run away from tyrants, and instead we fall into a creeping pogrom, that our children learn a lot of lies, so what's the joke?'
But proud enough to shut the window at night just in case Shirley were to catch tonsillitis and be unable to perform.
Grace Paley says about herself,
'I was a woman writing at the early moment when the small drops of worried resentment and noble rage, were secretly, slowly building into the second wave of the women's movement. I didn't know my usefulness in this accumulation'
So when you come to a story that begins,
'My husband gave me a broom one Christmas. This wasn't right. No one can tell me it was meant kindly.'
You start to realize you are in for a treat and can't wait to get onto the one that begins
'There were two husbands disappointed by eggs.
I don't like them that way either, I said. Make your own eggs.They sighed in unison. One man was livid; one was pallid'
Then suddenly in the midst of it all a story, just two pages long and doused in sorrow,
'Two weeks before Christmas, Ellen called me and said, 'Faith, I'm dying.' That week I was dying too.'
But like all of her writing, nuggets of life with that kernel of Grace secreted right in the centre.No matter how dire the situation you know that Grace Paley always allows herself that nod to the funny side of life, and you are allowed to smile in spite of it all.
Erica Wagner gets the back cover quote on this Virago edition and I like it, she says of Grace Paley
'the rhythms of New York City pulse through her writing...she listens to literature and street language, and she blends them perfectly.'
For those of us who have never visited New York City other than from an armchair, but will one day, this book is a fabulous treat and is making light work of my 'short story a day' resolution for this coming year.
Where I go once these are finished is anybody's guess but it might just be Russia.