(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“The Expensive Moment” is a complex and textured fabric of moments, observations, encounters, emotions, and ideas in a particular period of Faith’s life. Presumably the same character of Paley’s other stories, she here inhabits a world of overtly political discussions and deeper, mellower wisdom.

The people in Faith’s life are all vigorously engaged in political and emotional pursuits. Her sons are grown: Tonto is in love, and Richard is an active member of the League for Revolutionary Youth. Faith is in a solid but stale marriage to a furniture store salesman named Jack and is having an intellectually and sexually stimulating affair with an attractive, mercurial China scholar named Nick. Her best friend, Ruth, meets her for lunch at the Art Foods Deli and laments the absence and uncertain future of her daughter Rachel, an errant political revolutionary. Faith reminisces about her own activist past and debates trade and political theory with her son Richard. Along with Ruth and Nick, she attends meetings and dinners where she meets exiled Chinese artists and writers.

At such a meeting, Faith meets Xie Fing, a Chinese poet, “a woman from half the world away who’d lived a life beyond foreignness and had experienced extreme history.” The two women become acquainted, and Xie Fing invites herself to see Faith’s home, a request that delights and flatters Faith. They spend the next day drinking tea in Faith’s kitchen, touring the house and the neighborhood, discussing themselves, their children, their political activities, and the future. The story ends simply on a...

(The entire section is 656 words.)

The Expensive Moment Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Cevoli, Cathy. “These Four Women Could Save Your Life.” Mademoiselle 89 (January, 1983): 104-107.

DeKoven, Marianne. “Mrs. Hegel-Shtein’s Tears.” Partisan Review 48, no. 2 (1981): 217-223.

Gelfant, Blanche H. “Grace Paley: Fragments for a Portrait in Collage.” New England Review 3, no. 2 (Winter, 1980): 276-293.

Harrington, Stephanie. “The Passionate Rebels.” Vogue 153 (May, 1969): 151.

Iannone, Carol. “A Dissent on Grace Paley.” Commentary 80 (August, 1985): 54-58.

Klinkowitz, Jerome. “Grace Paley: The Sociology of Metafiction.” In Literary Subversions. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985.

McMurran, Kristin. “Even Admiring Peers Worry That Grace Paley Writes Too Little and Protests Too Much.” People 11 (February 26, 1979): 22-23.

Paley, Grace. “The Seneca Stories: Tales from the Women’s Peace Encampment.” Ms. 12 (December, 1983): 54-58.

Park, Clara Claiborne. “Faith, Grace, and Love.” The Hudson Review 38, no. 3 (Autumn, 1985): 481-488.

Scheifer, Ronald. “Grace Paley: Chaste Compactness.” In Contemporary American Women Writers: Narrative Strategies, edited by Catherine Rainwater and William J. Scheik. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1985.

Smith, Wendy. “Grace Paley.” Publishers Weekly 227 (April 5, 1985): 71-72.

Sorkin, Adam J. “Grace Paley.” In Twentieth-Century American-Jewish Writers, edited by Daniel Walden. Vol. 28 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1984.

Sorkin, Adam J. “What Are We, Animals? Grace Paley’s World of Talk and Laughter.” Studies in American Jewish Literature 2 (1982): 144-154.