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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

14. Becoming Visible

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Activities: Author Activities

Grace Paley - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: In "A Conversation with My Father," how do the narrator and her father have different concepts of the truth and of what fiction is supposed to do?

  2. Comprehension: "A Conversation with My Father" seems to call into question Paley's own career as a conscientious creator of and experimenter in self-consciously "literary" trends. The narrator's father asks for a simple, readable story: why does the narrator listen to the complaints of an eighty-six-year-old man?

  3. Comprehension: Does the father teach the writer an important lesson about fiction? About life or the relationship of art to life? What does he mean by those last words: "Tragedy! You too. When will you look it in the face?"

  4. Context: Compare the dialogue in "A Conversation with My Father" to the dialogue in "The Magic Barrel." Do you hear differences in the voices? Consider carefully the voice of the writer herself: in becoming a New York artist, has she lost or forgotten something of who she once was?

  5. Exploration: Use Grace Paley's work as a springboard for an exploration of metafiction. Read another piece of metafiction, such as Pynchon's "Entropy." Think about whether such works as The Way to Rainy Mountain or Invisible Man qualify as metafiction.

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