Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Redux newsletter.
This week, we bring you our 1992 interview with Grace Paley. It is one of the twelve interviews we’ve chosen for our new collection, Women at Work. Introduced by Ottessa Moshfegh, with illustrations by Joana Avillez, Women at Work spans the history of the Review, comprising our original interviews with Dorothy Parker, Isak Dinesen, Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Yourcenar, Elizabeth Bishop, Margaret Atwood, Grace Paley, Toni Morrison, Jan Morris, Joan Didion, Hilary Mantel, and Claudia Rankine.
Women at Work is available only from The Paris Review, with all proceeds going to support the magazine. Today, October 17, is the last day to preorder the book for 50% off the cover price—just $10. Order yours now!
Grace Paley, The Art of Fiction No. 131
Issue no. 124 (Fall 1992)
What were you doing before you became a published writer?
I was working part time. I was hanging out a lot. I was kind of lazy. I had my kids when I was about twenty-six, twenty-seven. I took them to the park in the afternoons. Thank God I was lazy enough to spend all that time in Washington Square Park. I say lazy but of course it was kind of exhausting running after two babies. Still, looking back I see the pleasure of it. That’s when I began to know women very well—as co-workers, really. I had a part-time job as a typist up at Columbia. In fact, when I began to write stories, I typed some up there, and some in the PTA office of P.S. 41 on Eleventh Street. If I hadn’t spent that time in the playground, I wouldn’t have written a lot of those stories. That’s pretty much how I lived. And then we had our normal family life—struggles and hard times. That takes up a lot of time, hard times. Uses up whole days.