In The Little Disturbances of Man, relationships between women and men are turbulent, mysterious, and frequently surprising. Grace Paley shows us couples who divorce but remain as intimate with each other as when married. She probes the affairs younger women avidly pursue with older men. She gives us a perennial mistress who eventually marries the man she's been having a thirty-year affair with. Paley makes no judgments about her characters; she simply invites us to observe them. With wry, sly humor and keen insight into the way we really live-as opposed to how we like to think we live-Paley's stories provoke rarely asked, potentially inflammatory questions about relationships. Apart from the moments when sex brings them into harmony, the men and women in Paley's stories seem to operate at cross-purposes. The women want a man who will stick around, but such a man is nearly impossible to find. The men want women to be companions as well as lovers, but they don't want wives-at least not permanently-and they certainly don't want to be bothered by children. The results of this impasse are melancholy as well as comic, insofar as neither the women nor the men seem able to rid themselves of desires that can never be satisfied. The contradictions that energize Paley's stories usually go unresolved, which seems appropriate given the book's subtitle, "Stories of Women and Men at Love." The notion that her characters are at love, rather than in love, suggests that love is something-one thing among others-her characters do. It requires active engagement, much like work, and it is never fully grasped, neither in the sense of being under control nor in the sense of being entirely understood.