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    One great short story to read today: Grace Paley’s “A Conversation with My Father.”

    Emily Temple

    May 17, 2023, 10:00am

    According to the powers that be (er, apparently according to Dan Wickett of the Emerging Writers Network), May is Short Story Month. To celebrate, the Literary Hub staff will be recommending a single short story, free to read online, every (work) day of the month. Why not read along with us? Today, we recommend:

    “A Conversation with My Father” by Grace Paley

    There is no actual plot in Grace Paley’s brief, metafictional “A Conversation with My Father”—the speaker is writing a short story, and her father doesn’t care for it at all—and yet it manages to be about the most important things in the world. Elsewhere, Alice Mattison has written about the trick this story pulls off: none of the characters change; it is the reader who changes, by the end, whose sympathies shift with the realization of death, of the tragedy which comes through three layers of reality before it settles into your human stomach.

    The story begins:

    My father is eighty-six years old and in bed. His heart, that bloody motor, is equally old and will not do certain jobs any more. It still floods his head with brainy light. But it won’t let his legs carry the weight of his body around the house. Despite my metaphors, this muscle failure is not due to his old heart, he says, but to a potassium shortage. Sitting on one pillow, leaning on three, he offers last-minute advice and makes a request.

    Read it here.

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