Reading Grace Paley

Recently I have been inspired to write straight after I read the works of others and think ‘I wish I wrote that’. I think this the most when I am reading Grace Paley’s work.

When I first starting writing I attempted poetry, but it never really worked in the way I wanted it to. I got very easily frustrated with it. I had too much to say and I felt constrained by the fundamentals of poetry. On the other hand, I always felt like novels were too frightening to begin and attempt – I feared maybe I didn’t have enough to say.

I first came across Grace Paley’s writing at school, during an English exam. We had to write a close reading analysis on Grace Paley’s short story, ‘Wants’. I was completely stunned by how much life she could fit into such a small amount of writing. I think that was when my love of short stories began and I have been writing short stories ever since then.

In ‘Wants’, Grace Paley writes very movingly on bumping into an ex-husband and manages to slip in subtle poignant statements: ‘I don’t argue when there’s real disagreement’. I often think of her combination of both subtlety and boldness when I write – I try to practice the art of bringing both elements into one short piece.

It’s not something I have mastered by any means but something I have been trying more and more. I like reading The Collected Stories of Grace Paley to put me in a more experimental writing mood. Grace Paley gets me to try new things and expands my horizons, does she have that influence on you too?

What Am I Reading Right Now?

This post isn’t actually about what I’m reading right now. Horribly dishonest title, I know. My apologies. No, this post is about the fact that I’m reading at all, and hallelujah for that.

If you’re a bibliophile like me, you probably have at least five books that you’re currently reading, not to mention the fifty you will definitely read as soon as possible.

And the pandemic is a perfect time to finally get through that list, isn’t it?

Not if you’re like me. Somehow books got replaced with Netflix, and in 2020 the most horrendous thing happened – I failed my reading challenge. (Okay, it wasn’t the only horrendous thing to happen in 2020, but let’s focus on the reading for now).

I realised that television had taken over a place in my life that used to belong to literature, so I decided to join an online reading group. It’s actually a pretty simple concept. You meet up online twice a week, read separately for about an hour, and then you talk about what you’ve read.

It was the kick in the balls (though I don’t actually have any balls) that I needed, and I read three books in three days. The first one due to the social pressure of people knowing that you’re supposed to be reading. The following two because the first one reminded me how wonderful it is.

I love to read. To truly subvert myself into another universe, another set of problems, another mindset. But sometimes love isn’t enough.

Sometimes you need a good kick in the balls.

And a little bit of social pressure.