The very things that have made Grace Paley a terrible poet unfortunately affect her bad fiction as well. She is preachy, pedantic, and damns any notion of advancing skill or craftsmanship over screeding and speechifying. And it's doubly a shame because her earliest stories showed some potential, however limited, but even more drive. In her The Collected Stories, the book is divided up into the three books of forty-four tales she's published in her 83 years of life: The Little Disturbances Of Man (1959), Enormous Changes At The Last Minute (1974), and Later The Same Day (1985). She's certainly not prolific, and aside from a few minor plays and her terrible poetry, this prose is the bulk of her fifty year writing career. Of course, since she's a Left Wing Radical with Socialist sympathies, a self-described pacifist, feminist, and `cooperative anarchist'- whatever that means, her trite crap is praised to the hilt. The back cover of this book contains blurbs from Angela Carter, Donald Barthelme, and Susan Sontag, most notably. Yet, there is nothing of grand literary merit to be gleaned in the ravings about Paley, one of the most overrated of contemporary writers- the yenta poet-cum political screedist.... That Paley has become a lauded writer is a disgrace, but all too symptomatic of these deliterate times we live in- her poems are horrid political screeds with no music nor form, and what little talent she once had in prose she raped for meager fame and acclaim from no talents like Susan Sontag and Donald Barthelme, as this book unfortunately shows. At every turn, her characters become utter stereotypes- usually the worst sort of screechy Left Wing Jewish New York stereotypes. In her later books, Paley manifestly gave up artistic challenges for cheap political acceptance. Her wretched tales are filled with total and creaky artifice, as well the worst sort of political dogma, which is everything antithetical to real art and its production, not to mention hammering the most obvious points home because Paley not only distrusts her readers, but actively despises and belittles them, and that contempt shows through every condescending line she pens. That this collection won the National Book Award demonstrates yet again how politics, not art, dominates the awards process in this nation, and that real and great artists have no chance in the current system, for it's broken beyond even hope of repair. Even worse, in her Introduction, Paley tells how she `accidentally' first got published, when her husband brought a friend, who just happened to be an editor at Doubleday, home to see her tales. She had only three tales written, at the time, but the enthused editor eagerly asked her for seven or eight stories more, which in toto became her first published book. How the lackluster tales of that first book could impress any editor worth their job into asking for more of the same seems almost incomprehensible, but, since Paley has always been a Leftist cult figure (cults truly do suck in all walks of life), I guess the editor merely liked her political views, if not understanding her so-so craft. Given that depressing start to a career, is it any wonder that, fiftysomething years later, Grace Paley's art has followed the downward trajectory it has?