Just as I Thought Critical Essays

Grace Paley

Just as I Thought

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In JUST AS I THOUGHT, Grace Paley collects her writing on a variety of topics from the 1950’s to the 1990’s into one volume. Some of the entries have been previously published in noted magazines such as MS., while speech transcripts constitute other sections. The rather eclectic nature of JUST AS I THOUGHT showcases the wit and cleverness of individual texts, yet ends up creating an unclear sense of movement and relationships between texts which hurts the overall readability of the book.

Paley does not contextualize or justify her positions on many issues and this editorial choice has its positive features, as well as its drawbacks. The lack of rationalizing keeps the writing fresh and gives the reader a sense of reading honest social history. In her articles relating to her late 1960’s peace mission to Hanoi to free American prisoners, for example, Paley takes on the United States government for its anti-North Vietnamese propaganda and its blatant attempts to profit from the war. In her many nuclear protest pieces, Paley helps recall the mood of the country as it struggled with this issue.

Despite the positive qualities of such a creative joining of articles on so many topics, JUST AS I THOUGHT suffers because of its weak organization and sense of purpose. Though ostensibly a chronological study, tracing Paley’s political development from the early 1950’s, the text also has discreet chapters supposedly devoted to similar topics. However, these categories become loose subdivisions for the book. Consequently, one begins to wonder how the pieces relate to each other within the chapters, and more importantly, what the completed collection says about Paley’s development as a political activist.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XCIV, March 1, 1998, p. 1086.

Library Journal. CXXIII, February 15, 1998, p. 143.

Los Angeles Times. May 27, 1998, p. E6.

The Nation. CCLXVI, May 11, 1998, p. 38.

The New Republic. CCXVIII, June 29, 1998, p. 35.

New York. XXXI, May 18, 1998, p. 100.

The New York Times Book Review. CIII, April 19, 1998, p. 42.

The Progressive. LXII, December, 1998, p. 41.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, February 2, 1998, p. 72.

Vanity Fair. March, 1998, p. 220.