Lilly Rivlin’s intimate documentary film is a rich, inspiring portrait of writer, activist and New York icon Grace Paley (1922-2007). Paley’s acclaimed first short story collection, The Little Disturbances of Man, established her reputation with its brilliantly sad and funny chronicles of Jewish American urban females much like herself.
Paley’s New York tales, filled with an emotional and sexual frankness especially bold at the tail end of the frightened 1950s, soon became classics of the short fiction form. Not content to rest on her laurels, however, Paley combined her evolving literary career with passionate pursuit of her political concerns through the 1960s, 70s and 80s. “Art is too long and life is too short,” wrote the outspoken Paley, “There’s a lot more to do in life than writing.” Indeed, she spent the rest of her life on the front lines of the anti-war and women’s movements, where she endured being arrested time and again.
Rivlin’s film confidently juggles all aspects of Paley’s extraordinary story, told in candid recollections and passionate readings by Paley herself, along with fond remembrances by literary critics, family and writer-friends Allan Gurganas and Alice Walker. Throughout, Grace Paley: Collected Shorts casts an important and penetrating light on a brilliant and highly principled woman who constantly reinvented both her life and art.
Running time: 74 minutes
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