Maggie Paley is the author of a novel, Bad Manners; a play about Edith Wharton, In One Door; a chapbook of sestinas, Elephant; and numerous magazine articles and book reviews. She has worked as an editor for The Paris Review and Life, as a contributing editor for Vogue and Elle, and as a contributing writer for Mirabella. She lives and works in New York City.
In One Door, a play about Edith Wharton and the two architects with whom she built her Lenox house, the Mount. Commissioned and produced by Shakespeare & Co, Lenox, MA, 1985.
Bad Manners, a novel, Clarkson N. Potter, 1986; Penguin 1987; Fontana, England, 1987; Da Capo, Poland, 1994. Available in print-on-demand edition from Painted Leaf Press, at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.
Elephant, a chapbook of sestinas, The Groundwater Press, 1990.
Story, “A Zen Exercise in Concentration,” in New York Sex, Painted Leaf Press, 1998.
The Book of the Penis is also available or will soon be available, in Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portugese, Spanish.
From the author:
When people find out I’m the author of The Book of the Penis, they almost always ask me why I wrote it.
The short answer is that I like to go out on a limb.
For example my novel, Bad Manners, is written almost entirely in dialogue. In it, four New York women talk about their lives to each other on the telephone. I constructed the plot by consulting Emily Post, and then making sure that each major life situation covered in a good etiquette book would come up for discussion by my four heroines.
Then I published Elephant, a chapbook of sestinas. A sestina is a verse form of six stanzas; the end words are the same in each stanza, but in a different, prescribed order. I don’t write poetry, but I could fashion sestinas by writing the end-words down the right-hand side of the page and then filling in the lines as quickly as possible. Later I worked some of them up. The idea is to bypass one’s inner censor and tap directly into the unconscious by making writing into a game or problem-solving exercise. I was introduced to this way of working by novelist and poet Harry Mathews, who is a member of the French group the Oulipo (an acronym for Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle, or Workshop of Potential Literature).
The challenge with The Book of the Penis wasn’t structural – it had to do with the material itself. I thought it was about time the subject came out in the open – I, for one, wanted to know more about penises than I had ever been able to find out from mere experience. I also knew that, having been brought up to be discreet and ladylike, I would be embarrassed doing the research. I didn’t think embarrassment was what people should feel about their own and other people’s sex organs.
For a more detailed discussion of this subject, see the Preface to The Book of the Penis, which is excerpted online.