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Political Activist Grace Paley Will Be Sidore Lecturer

KEENE, N.H. 10/5/04 - Writer and political activist Grace Paley once said political causes distract her from writing, preventing her from ever finishing a novel. “Art is too long and life is too short,” explained Paley in Commentary Magazine. “There is a lot more to do in life than just writing.”

Paley will be this semester’s Sidore Lecturer at Keene State College. The presentation, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 13, in the Mabel Brown Room of the Student Center.

Paley, who is well known for her roles in the feminist and antinuclear movements, will speak about “In and Out of the World.”

During the 1960s and 1970s Paley was prominent as a nonviolent activist protesting the Vietnam War. She served as secretary of the Greenwich Village Peace Center, spent time in jail for her antiwar activities, and visited Hanoi and Moscow as a member of peace delegations, defining herself as a “somewhat combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist.” During the World Peace Congress in Moscow in 1973, she condemned the Soviet Union for silencing political dissidents; the congress disassociated itself from her statement. Newsweek’s Walter Clemons called Paley “one of the best writers alive.” Paley, who has been named both the New York and the Vermont state writer, is one of America’s most revered short story writers. Her short stories have appeared in such publications as the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly. Her collections of stories include “The Little Disturbances of Man,” 1959; “Enormous Changes at the Last Minute,” 1974; and “Later the Same Day,” 1985. Paley’s most recent work, “Just As I Thought” was published in 1999.

Author and critic Susan Sontag wrote about Paley: “She is that rare kind of writer, a natural with a voice like no one else’s: funny, sad, lean, modest, energetic, acute. Like the great modern Russian writers, she demonstrates a possible unity of the art of consciousness and the naturalness of conscience.”

Paley was born in the Bronx in New York in 1922, the daughter of Russian immigrants who arrived in New York at about the turn of the century. She was raised in a home where both Yiddish and English were spoken, in a world with sharp contrasts between Old World Russia and New World America.

She attended public schools in New York and studied at Hunter College in New York and New York University, where she developed her distinctive literary style. Her short stories are marked by her Russian-Jewish heritage as well as by her perceptions of New York street life. Paley has taught at Columbia University, New York; Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.; Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.; and City College of New York. She is a popular lecturer and workshop leader at colleges and universities. Among her awards and honors are the 1994 Jewish Cultural Achievement Award; Literary Arts Award, given by the National Endowment for Jewish Culture; and the Edith Wharton Award. In 1989, she also was honored at a ceremony in Albany, N.Y., by Gov. Mario Cuomo, who declared her the first official New York State Writer. She lives in Thetford, Vt.

The Sidore Memorial Foundation and the Sidore Lecture Series have been established to support campus presentations by speakers on emerging ideas and to enhance faculty efforts to challenge students and the wider community to participate in dialogue around original and sometimes controversial issues facing society.

For more information, call Linda Baker, professor of psychology, at 603-358-2611.

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