Friday, August 24, 2007

Grace Paley, Writer and Activist, Dies

Pic shows Grace Paley in her home in Thetford, Vt., April 9, 2003.

Grace Paley, the celebrated writer and social activist whose acclaimed short stories explored in precise, pungent and tragicomic style the struggles of ordinary women muddling through everyday lives, died Wednesday at her home in Thetford Hill, Vt. She was 84 and lived most of her life in Manhattan before moving to Vermont in 1988.

Her husband, Robert Nichols, told the Associated Press that she had battled breast cancer. The agency did not say whether her death was directly connected to that illness.

Ms. Paley’s output was modest, just 45 stories in three volumes: “The Little Disturbances of Man” (Doubleday, 1959); “Enormous Changes at the Last Minute” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1974); and “Later the Same Day” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1985). But she attracted a devoted following and was widely praised by critics for her pitch-perfect dialogue, which managed to be surgically spare and unimaginably rich at the same time.

Her “Collected Stories,” published by Farrar, Straus in 1994, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. From 1986 to 1988, Ms. Paley was New York’s first official state author.
Ms. Paley was among the earliest American writers to explore the lives of women — mostly Jewish, mostly New Yorkers — in all their dailyness. She focused especially on single mothers, whose days were an exquisite mix of sexual yearning and pulverizing fatigue. In a sense, her work was about what happened to the women that Roth and Bellow and Malamud’s men had loved and left behind.

Read the full story which appeared in the New York Times August 23 via this link.

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