Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Great Loss - Author Grace Paley Dies

It saddened me greatly to hear that Grace Paley, a talented writer and social activist who championed women and anti-war movements among other things, died yesterday at her home in Vermont at the age of 84.

Ms. Paley’s short stories, for which she won much acclaim, focused on women’s lives – not glamorous portrayals of the social elite, but the grittiness of everyday life for the single mother, the ex-wife, the “women that Roth and Bellow and Malamud’s men had loved and left behind,” says her obituary in the New York Times.

I first read Ms. Paley in a course called Contemporary Short Fiction, which, in this case, meant postmodern fiction and included a thick anthology with that label on the cover. The tale was “The Pale Pink Roast,” written in 1959, and told the story of a woman and the estranged father of her child, with whom she had still slept with behind her new husband’s back. I was surprised at the stark honesty of the story; she portrayed her characters with all their flaws and contradictions, leaving the reader to sort it all out, with an ear for dialog that is spot on.

Ms. Paley did not rest on her literary laurels, but worked tirelessly to effect change for underrepresented groups, and to lobby for peace in the face of war – exactly the kind of author and person Fringe Magazine aspires to publish and profile. Had she written novels instead of short stories, she’d certainly have been part of the Pool for the 25 Books Project we’re running. I urge our readers to seek out her work, learn about her life, and carry on her vision.

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