2007_08_arts_paley.jpgGrace Paley, New York's official state author from 1986-88, died at the age of 84 yesterday. She had been battling breast cancer for quite some time. The author, born in the Bronx on December 11th, 1922, still kept an apartment in Manhattan -- but was at her home in Vermont at the time of death. The NY Times recaps her life in literature:

Ms. Paley’s output was modest, about four-dozen stories in three volumes: “The Little Disturbances of Man” (Doubleday, 1959); “Enormous Changes at the Last Minute” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1974); and “Later the Same Day” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1985). But she attracted a devoted following and was widely praised by critics for her pitch-perfect dialogue, which managed at once to be surgically spare and almost unimaginably rich.

Her “Collected Stories,” published by Farrar, Straus in 1994, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. (The collection was reissued by Farrar, Straus this year.)

Paley (pictured with the megaphone) was a pioneer in exploring and writing about female lives, often focusing on Jewish and New York women. In a 1978 interview with The Times she told them, “I’m not writing a history of famous people. I am interested in a history of everyday life.” When not using the written word, she would bring her beliefs to the street. Describing herself as a “somewhat combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist,” she spent decades on lower Sixth Avenue, near her Greenwich Village home handing out leaflets for causes she believed in.

In 1998 she ended an interview with Salon saying, "But if your health is good, and you have a habit of looking at each day as a whole day -- unless you drop dead at noon or something -- then every day you live something interesting. It's interesting because you either meet a new tree or if you're in the city, you meet a new person. Or something happens. The sun shifts on the mountain -- very beautiful things happen."

More: NPR on Grace Paley (plus audio of Paley reading her work) and Maud Newton met Grace Paley twice.

Photo via mkaggen's flickr.