Sixty-four year old writer Grace Paley, self-proclaimed "combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist," brought her audience of 150 to laughs and tears last night with lively readings of her feminist fiction.
"I write mostly about the women I know and their lives," said the leftwing feminist to a mostly female crowd. She said she took most of her story ideas from her own experience, but tries to combine them with universal dilemnas.
One of the two pieces she read, called "Lavinia," is based on the life of her grandmother, a Russian Jewish emigre. But the contemporary narrator is an elderly Black woman.
"I write about the politics of women's lives" said the New York City native, whose political activism has focused on issues related to Judaism, feminism and disarmament. She said she believes war is inevitable without social change.
Currently working on her third collection of short stories--entitled "Later the Same Day"--to be released in April. Paley said she does not think she has the disposition to write a novel. "I believe in the infinite terseness of story--[even as short as] two-pages," she said to laughter.'
Besides dealing with feminism and women's lives. Paley's stories often focus on questions of Jewish identity. Asked about her source of inspiration, she said emphatically. "I was raised as a non-violent Jew... [and taught that] Jews were here to repair the world."
A group of English Department professors invited Pales to Harvard as part of the Morris Gras Poetry Fund a University endowment Former guests of the fund have been poets Robert Frost and I.S Eliot '10.
Senior Lecturer on English Monros Engel '42 introduced Pales and called her writing dependent "on organic, animal like optimism in the face of full knowledge."