Grace Paley

Grace Paley, May 14, 1986, after a PEN Board Meeting, New York City – photo: Allen Ginsberg, courtesy Stanford University Libraries / Allen Ginsberg Estate

Today, December 11, 2022, marks the Centennial of the birth of author and activist, Grace Paley (1922-2007)

Lilly Rivlin‘s documentary from 2010 – Grace Paley – Collected Shorts is well worth tracking down. Here is the trailer for it:

As is Judith Arcana‘s  Grace Paley’s Life Stories (now in its second printing), her biography

Grace Paley’s Collected Stories:

Grace Paley on Allen:

“Allen Ginsberg happens to be a wonderful guy, and he created himself wonderful..
he made himself be wonderful, made himself be a wonderful person, or, he was a very comfortable person. Certainly, he had a family, that inspired him to be a very good person, he had a stepmother who was a marvelous person, he had people around him. And I did a lot of things with him in PEN later on, in the last ten years, maybe fifteen years of his life, a lot of political stuff. He used to the drop of a hat, he would do a benefit for the WRL (War Resister’s League), he’d always be there, you could always count on him to do anything like that…”

Her glowing words were delivered back in 2000 as part of a presentation at The Kelley Writers House 
However it should, of necessity, be pointed out that, although she admired him, she had considerably less sympathy with the rest of the Beats, “these guys, these young fellows, these boys” Listen for the full context of her quote – here

She died, August 22, 2007 – Here’s her obituary in the New York Times 

The War Resister’s League (one of her dedicated causes) provides a succinct overview of her extraordinary career – here

Anita Norich, a more extensive one, for The Jewish Womens Archive 

Mention should also be made of Alexandra Schwartz‘s must-read  2017 profile of Grace Paley in The New Yorker,The Art and Activism of Grace Paley”, with its fine opening declarative sentence:

“There’s a case to be made that Grace Paley was first and foremost an antinuclear, antiwar, antiracist feminist activist who managed, in her spare time, to become one of the truly original voices of American fiction in the later twentieth century.”

Here’s Grace Paley in 2004 from a series of interviews hosted by CUNY professor  Blanche Wiesen Cook


Here’s an Interview from 1976 for the Boston Review
Here’s her interview (from 1992) for The Paris Review
Here’s an  interview with The War Resister’s League in 2000
and an extensive interview  (from 2006) with Poets and Writers

2015 saw Grace Paley and the Disturbances of Man – The Legacy of Grace Paley, a symposium, held at the New School – here and here

2017 saw a landmark publication  – this:

A Grace Paley Reader: Stories, Essays, and Poetry,  a timely new collection, edited by poet and painter Kevin Bowen and Nora Paley, Grace’s daughter, bringing together work from the course of her career and providing a much-needed reminder of its importance.(an importance that, in the interim five years, has, it hardly needs to be pointed out,
in no way diminished).

As Karen Olsson wrote, in “Reading Grace Paley Today”, her 2017 review for Bookforum

“The nice thing about A Grace Paley Reader..(is).. the reminder that now would be a good time to read Grace Paley (and it so happens that now is a really good time to reread, or read, for the first time, her work, which is full of energetic struggle against tyrannies small and large…”

See here for annotated resources from the Yiddish Book Center regarding A Grace Paley Reader

Allen and Grace appear (separately but together) here on this archival tape from the Pacifica Foundation

Grace appears a number of times in the exemplary PEN audio archives

and there’s footage of Grace reading – here and here

Five poems from Grace

One more image from Allen:

Grace Paley at  the Philadelphia Museum of Art, benefit for Chinua Achebe, October 28, 1990 –  photo: Allen Ginsberg, courtesy Stanford University Libraries / Allen Ginsberg Estate



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