Sunday, June 03, 2007

Would Your Short Story Pass the Grace Paley Test?

From an interview with Grace Paley, published in The Book That Changed My Life: Interviews with National Book Award Winners and Finalists , on pp. 138-139:

[Diane Osen]: The narrator of your "Conversations with my Father" says, "Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life," and that kind of open-endedness characterizes [Isaac] Babel's stories as well as your own. Why does that particular narrative strategy appeal to you so strongly?

[Grace Paley]: A lot of short-story writers don't recognize that fact. I sometimes feel that if their stories went on for another day, everything would change. And it's cruel, I think, for the writer to end a story this way -- to leave the reader feeling that the story should have had one more day, because something would happen that would change everything. Now, maybe that's what they want to say, really, but I don't think so. I think it's just a technique of curtailing things and giving you a stomachache.

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