In Praise of Grace Paley

written by Michelle on August 23, 2007 in authors and Books and Ephemera and literary essays and literary fiction and On Writing with no comments

The iconic short story writer and essayist Grace Paley died yesterday at her home in Vermont. I have long been an admirer of her work, and have been such a disciple that my students over the years have probably become bored with the refrain, “If you want to learn how to write dialogue, read Grace Paley!”

I first read Paley in 1993, while living alone in a miserable little duplex in Knoxville, TN. I’d just accepted a job as a copywriter at an ad agency. I remember being snowed in during my first scheduled week of work, reading Paley on a set of Salvation Army sofa cushions I’d arranged on the floor as a bed. The crazy neighbors were screaming at each other, the snow was coming down, and I was bundled up in scarf, hat, and layers of sweats because I couldn’t afford to run the steam heat. That’s where I met Paley, in Little Disturbances of Man. I was mesmerized. Reading Paley was what taught me to write short stories. More on Paley in coming days…

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