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Tymon Smith

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Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Footnotes: Grace Paley

Born 11 December 1922, poet and political activist Grace Paley was regarded in her lifetime as one of the great American short story writers.

Born in the Bronx, New York, Paley studied in the 1940s under the poet WH Auden at the New School for Social research, where his social concern and sense of irony proved to be an enduring influence on her work.

Paley taught at Sarah Lawrence College from 1966 to 1989 and was made the first official New York State writer in 1989. She was later poet laureate of Vermont from 2003 until 2007, when she died at the age of 84 of breast cancer.

Her first collection of short stories, The Little Disturbances of Man, featured stories of New York life, which introduced several characters that would recur in later collections – Changes at the Last Minute and Later the Same Day.

Her second collection, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, was produced with the assistance of fellow American short story writer and postmodernist Donald Barthelme and continued her exploration of race, gender and class in America. Her three volumes were published together in 1994 as Collected Stories, a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award.

In a 1978 New York Times interview Paley said: “I’m not writing a history of famous people, I am interested in a history of everyday life.”

She was equally known as an activist as described in her New York Times obituary: “A self-described ‘somewhat combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist’, Paley was a lifelong advocate of liberal causes. During the Vietnam War, she was jailed several times for antiwar protests; in later years, she lobbied for women’s rights, against nuclear proliferation and, most recently, against the war in Iraq.”

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