Grace Paley takes heads

gracepaley

She does. Honest. Takes head and doesn’t give them back.

Example from the story “Wants”:

He had had a habit throughout the twenty-seven years of making a narrow remark which, like a plumber’s snake, could work its way through the ear down the throat, halfway to my heart. He would disappear, leaving me choking with equipment.

Here’s what I notice about this: that shouldn’t have worked. The metaphor—the plumber’s snake entering the ear and making its way near the heart—should come off as cliche. Familiar. A little silly. Following it up with “…leaving me choking with equipment,” redeems it.

Writers: push a cliche to the point where it strains to near snapping and you revive it.

Man, that’s a funny line.