Friday, February 15, 2013

Paul Goodman: Literary Icon

Paul Goodman (1911–1972) defined himself not just as an author but also as a playwright, poet, novelist, urban planner, media critic, classicist, activist, and primary-education expert. An icon of 1960s counterculture, Goodman spoke for a generation of dissatisfied youth through his writing. He was revered not only by students but also by other renowned writers; Susan Sontag called him "our Sartre." Goodman may not be a household name today as he was half a century ago, but his praises are still sung by artists and writers who remember his legendary influence.

Black Sparrow Books, an imprint of David R. Godine, Publisher, publishes many works by Paul Goodman: Volumes 2, 3, and 4 of The Collected Stories of Paul Goodman, Parents' Day, and The Empire City. Find them here, and read a few examples below of recent recognition.

In an interview this month with writer Jonathan Cott on Powell's Book's Blog, Cott cites Paul Goodman as the one author that he thinks people should read:
Paul Goodman (1911–1972) was an extraordinary American novelist, poet, playwright, literary critic, psychotherapist, pacifist, and social activist. All of these facets of his being are in evidence in his prodigiously inventive and audacious novel about New York City entitled The Empire City, which depicts a small group of radically sane "misfits" living in a world of eight million "normal" lunatics.
You can read the full interview here.

Cott also converses at length about Goodman with Susan Sontag in his upcoming book The Complete Rolling Stone Interview with Susan Sontag, which will be published by Yale University Press this fall. In particular, their conversation focuses on the "Johnson Stories," several volumes of which are published by Black Sparrow Books.

The film Paul Goodman Changed My Life (2011) by Jonathan Lee delves even further into the writer's lasting influence, set in New York when the '60s were in full swing. The film features commentary and quotes from a range of writers, peers, and family members. The film's website states: 

Paul Goodman was once so ubiquitous in the American zeitgeist that he merited a “cameo” in Woody Allenʼs Annie Hall. Author of legendary bestseller Growing Up Absurd (1960), Goodman was also a poet, 1940s out queer (and family man), pacifist, visionary, co-founder of Gestalt therapy—and a moral compass for many in the burgeoning counterculture of the ‘60s.

The New York Times review of the film claims that:
The time is surely right for a Goodman revival. There are aspects of contemporary life that he anticipated and influenced — the gay rights movement, most notably — and others that are sorely in need of his wisdom.
You can revive Goodman's wisdom and relive his stories yourself by purchasing any number of the volumes offered on our website!

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