Debts by Grace Paley, 1971
The magic trick:
Considering the role and responsibility of a writer
Honestly, I don’t much care about the story within this story. Maybe I’m missing the point, but I’m far more interested in the framing device that sees the narrator consider her role as a writer. She feels a sense of responsibility, or at least she is told as much by a friend, to “save lives” as a writer. She must take the time to use her talent to document people’s stories so that their experiences will live on for future generations. I love that idea. And that’s quite a trick on Paley’s part,
Lucia explained to me that it was probably hard to have family archives or even only stories about outstanding grandparents or uncles when one was sixty or seventy and there was no writer in the family and the children were in the middle of their own lives. She said it was a pity to lose all this inheritance just because of one’s own mortality. I said yes, I did understand. We drank more coffee. Then I went home.