In many ways, Paley wasn’t a typical American writer. Her characters did not suffer “identity crises.” Instead of living on the road, they stayed home, in Greenwich Village. They discussed politics, dared to take sides and belonged to clubs anxious to have them as members.

“People talk of alienation and so forth,” she said in a 1994 interview with The Associated Press. “I don’t feel that. I feel angry at certain things, but I don’t feel alienated from it. I feel disgusted with it, or mad, but I don’t feel I’m not in it.”


Paley’s fiction set an easy, informal tone, but was developed out of weeks and months of careful refinement, all sentences read aloud before being committed to paper. Many stories were not so much “stories” as conversations overheard, with fitting titles such as “Listening” and “Talking.”