I read Grace Paley's interview in the Paris Review, where she says,
“The longest review I’ve ever had was an attack in Commentary magazine. Kind of virulent. My publisher doesn’t send me terrible things that people have said. I’m not the kind of a writer who gets into literary fights. I prefer political ones. As for my attitude towards other writers, I’m kind of short on disdain or contempt. That is, I don’t belong to the school of “I can only live if you die.” I tend to be interested in writers whose work is different from mine. Of course I’m saddened and angered equally by work made of contempt, hatred, misogyny, and too many adjectives.”
The interviewer says people describe her as wise. She responds,
“That’s because I’m old. When people get old they seem wise, but it’s only because they’ve got a little more experience, that’s all. I’m not so wise. Two things happen when you get older. You have more experience, so you either seem wiser, or you get totally foolish. There are only those two options. You choose one, probably the wrong one.”
I think one is both foolish and wise continually. We all choose to lapse into idiocy in vast areas of life. The best we can do is to choose wisely. Not to be an idiot about health, welfare, spiritual and love life, friends. While focused on those I fall behind in keeping up with technology, society, and clutter, checking the car, magazines, chores, cleaning, moisturizing, answering emails.
Grace Paley said in one essay on writing, “Directive:”
“Choose some mystery about your parents.
If you feel before you start that you understand everything—he’s a sadist and she’s a masochist, drop the subject.”
You don’t understand how little you understand.