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Talking in the Dark
Date of Review: 
Published Work: 
Randall Curb
Boston Review

Some years ago, Laura Glen Louis attended a talk by Grace Paley at which a member of the audience eagerly asked, "Ms. Paley, when are you going to write a novel?" "Never," Paley replied. "I don't like people to skim. And in a short story they can't." Well, some readers will always skim, but with a Paley story (and she never has written a novel), that's roughly equivalent to looking at a Vermeer for ten seconds. You need longer that that just to absorb the stillness. Paley, whose highly elliptical but emotionally freighted stories set the standard for many writers in the 1970s and 80s, is surely a model for Louis, as are Don DeLillo, Joan Didion, Italo Calvino, and William Trevor. All are writers who defy the lazy reader, the skimmer, the quick-fix literary hedonist impatient for the rush of plot and resolution. Hearing Paley confirmed Louis' growing devotion to the short story. She recognized "what every story writer knows: shorter is not only better, it's a great deal harder."