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When Grace Paley visits New York, she stays in her old apartment on West Eleventh Street. Her block has for the most part escaped the gentrification that has transformed the West Village since Paley moved there in the forties. The building where Paley lived for most of her adult life and where she raised her two children by her first husband, the filmmaker Jess Paley, is a rent-controlled brownstone walk-up with linoleum hallways. Mercifully spared mid-career renovations, Paley’s apartment retains the disheveled, variegated look of an apartment with children. Paley now lives in Thetford, Vermont with her second husband, poet and playwright Robert Nichols, but we arranged to speak with her in New York. We met her on the street outside her apartment—she was returning home from a Passover celebration with friends elsewhere in the city. We recognized her from half a block away—a tiny woman with fluffy white hair in a brown overcoat.
Pour the cake batter evenly over the plums and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. (My cake was perfect at 35 minutes) Cool for 20 minutes, then invert the cake onto a flat plate and remove the parchment paper. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a dollop of whipped cream.