Thursday, August 23, 2007

R.I.P., Grace Paley

December 11, 1922 - August 22, 2007

from the New York Times obit:

In her best writing, Ms. Paley collapsed entire worlds into a few perfect paragraphs, as in the opening of “Wants,” from Enormous Changes at the Last Minute:

“I saw my ex-husband in the street. I was sitting on the steps of the new library.

“Hello, my life, I said. We had once been married for twenty-seven years, so I felt justified.

“He said, What? What life? No life of mine.

“I said, O.K. I don’t argue when there’s real disagreement. I got up and went into the library to see how much I owed them.

“The librarian said $32 even and you’ve owed it for eighteen years. I didn’t deny anything. Because I don’t understand how time passes. I have had those books. I have often thought of them. The library is only two blocks away.

“My ex-husband followed me to the Books Returned desk. He interrupted the librarian, who had more to tell. In many ways, he said, as I look back, I attribute the dissolution of our marriage to the fact that you never invited the Bertrams to dinner.

“That’s possible, I said. But really, if you remember: first, my father was sick that Friday, then the children were born, then I had those Tuesday-night meetings, then the war began.”


tamara said...

I just re-read this story yesterday, after hearing Paley had passed. It was the first story of hers I'd ever read. At the time it seemed so remarkable: a strong woman getting on with her life after divorce. With a sense of humour, even. It's still a perfect little story to me.

Maryanne said...

oh yes, such a sense of humor. and every line so resonant with meaning.