« OPTIONAL: Voice | Main | Kara's Presentation - "Important Things" »

OPTIONAL: Grace Paley stories

  • If you were trying to describe Grace Paley’s stories, or Paley's "voice," how would you?
  • How is sense of place important in her stories? Is this a particular place? How does she create depth/setting?
  • If she puts politics into the story, how? Does it overwhelm the story?
  • In the story "Living," the narrator keeps coming back to, “I was dying.? How does that affect the story? How would you describe the distance between the narrator and the events of the story? How does that change/affect your view of things?
  • What questions would you ask about these stories, if you were presenting them?


Above all, I would describe Grace Paley's stories as real. The stories we've read don't exactly deal in everyday situations, but there's something in them—her characters, or her ''voice''—that makes them lifelike and easy to imagine as more than fictional anecdotes.

The sense of place in the stories is pretty concrete. It was said in class, and I agree, that even before a place was mentioned in ''Wants''—something told me that it was in NYC (or, at least, a big city). The setting contributes to the ''realness'' I saw in the stories. When she puts one person or a small group of people against the backdrop of a big city where their story is no more important than anyone else's, it gives me a sense that these happenings are not at all unlikely.

Her politics don't overwhelm her stories at all. I didn't read ''Northeast Playground'' outside class (and now I don't have the packet to look back on because I'm 400 miles from my dorm, where I left it), but in ''Wants'' at least, her politics are offhand. The line that the narrator ''promised her sons she would end the war'' was just one, small detail floating in a sea of other small details—and still it resonated as something close to the author, too. I think that's a smart way of inserting politics, and a lot less tiresome than other authors' methods of doing the same.

Grace Paley's stories and voice are simply lovely! They are real but not in a mundane way which we've all seen before. Her voice is simple and melodic, definitely enjoyable to read.

Upon first read of "Wants", I did not get a sense of any particular place. The setting was much more of a white, blank space, which I think is interesting. However... After going over it in class, I can definitely see the illusions to a large city. I do find it fascinating though that she never really defines the larger setting, but instead focuses more on smaller details which accumulate to a put together short story. I wish I had the skill to do that!

Politics in her stories are not as overwhelming as other authors I have read. I suppose that writers write what they are interested in or passionate about, and for Paley that is politics. Paley is sometimes restrained with her politics as in "Wants", but sometimes more blatant about them as in "Northeast Playground". I think that is a smart way of inserting things like politics into a story, varying how strong it comes across. I probably wouldn't be as fond of Paley as I am if all of her stories were like "Northeast Playground", which seems to me to be spewing politics.

I would describe Paley's voice as plain. She says things simply, without lots of ornementation or circuitous phrasing. I think it's interesting that she defines voice as a song you hear in your head a way of speaking, because I thought all her charcerts did seem to share the same dialect, even though they were pretty different in other ways.

I don't know that sense of place is important to her stories,in that they could happen somewhere else and say essentially the same things. The themes are universal, at least in "Wants" and "Living," a woman looking back on her life and her marriage, someone confronting the death of a friend. They would be different stories, however. They are very specifically located, with concrete details strewn throughout.

Grace Paley writing has the clear voice of a woman. Not just the normal voice of any woman though- from start to finish her voice stands out over others, the type of woman at the front of a rally. It comes across as strong but weathered, experienced.

The place in her stories is always important because there are always references to where she was and how she got there. That’s the experience side of her voice. It also gives them depth, giving background to the current setting and shading it with emotion in how she feels about the change. (You know, as I write this I am appreciating her work even more.) But anyway, place in her stories is always very specific and serves a great purpose, not only in defining her voice but in giving her voice meaning.

There is certainly politics in her story, but it’s not too heavily noted; politics are always an aspect of her voice in my opinion. It is a reference to the effect that her experiences have had on her view of things.

When I think of Grace Paley's stories and the style she writes them in, I think of the importance of her political views and the subtle powerfulness that she holds in her tone and the way she writes. Her education and the role she plays in politics has a lot to say about what and who she's writing for. She always has a strong message embedded subtly in a thoughtful and interesting piece.

when she incorporates politics into her pieces, its very subtle and not in your face remotely. they are quick phrases that tie into her setting about whats going on in the world at the time but you have to decipher it in a way.

In "living" when Paley keeps repeating "i'm dying," it just hits me harder and makes me think more. It's such a blunt statement that by the end (when you find out shes not dying) really defines her character.

If i had to ask questions about her pieces, i would want to know if any real life people and events that she experience play a roll in her story writing and if so, how much of it is a reflection?

It doesn't seem that "place" is all that important to Paley. She first and foremost is determined to get the message across.

By repeating "I was dying" Paley separates the narrator from the events of the world and internalizes it in her little world.