24 August 2007

Author-Activist Grace Paley Dies

Grace Paley died yesterday. She had been battling breast cancer for quite some time.

Grace was born as Grace Goodside in the Bronx in 1922, and still kept an apartment in Manhattan -- but was at her home in Thetford, Vermont at the time of death.

Paley attended Hunter College, then, briefly NYU, but she never received a degree. In the early 1940's, Paley studied with W.H. Auden at the New School for Social Research.

Auden, was an Anglo-American poet, regarded by many as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His social concern and heavy use of irony is often cited as an important influence on Grace's early work, particularly her poetry.

Eloquently from The Times:

"Ms. Paley’s output was modest, about four-dozen stories in three volumes: “The Little Disturbances of Man” (1959); “Enormous Changes at the Last Minute” (1974); and “Later the Same Day” (1985). But she attracted a devoted following and was widely praised by critics for her pitch-perfect dialogue, which managed at once to be surgically spare and almost unimaginably rich.

Her “Collected Stories,” published in 1994, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. The collection was reissued this year."
Paley was a pioneer in exploring and writing about female lives, often focusing on Jewish and New York women. In a 1978 interview with The Times she told them, “I’m not writing a history of famous people. I am interested in a history of everyday life.”

When not using the written word, she would bring her beliefs to the street. Describing herself as a “somewhat combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist,” she spent decades on lower Sixth Avenue, near her Greenwich Village home handing out leaflets for causes she believed in.

"But if your health is good, and you have a habit of looking at each day as a whole day -- unless you drop dead at noon or something -- then every day you live something interesting. It's interesting because you either meet a new tree or if you're in the city, you meet a new person. Or something happens. The sun shifts on the mountain -- very beautiful things happen." - Grace Paley, 1998

More: NPR on Grace Paley (with audio of Paley reading some of her work)

Grace was 84.

The Little Disturbances of Man (short stories, 1959)
Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (short stories, 1974)
Later the Same Day (short stories, 1985)
Leaning Forward (poetry, 1985)
365 Reasons Not to Have Another War (nonfiction, 1989)
Long Walks and Intimate Talks (stories and poems, 1991)
New and Collected Poems (1992)
The Collected Stories (1994)
Begin Again: Collected Poems (2000)

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