Softcover, 632 pages
Hardcover, 632 pages
The Empire City
a novel by Paul Goodman
with a preface by Taylor Stoehr
“The Empire City is a book originating in good will, mature candor, and an urgently fermenting more-than-secular morality. . . . The spirit inside, and the text itself (which seems not so much written as whistled, teased, prayed), come as close to imparting man’s gratuitous love for his own kind as mere language ever can.”
—Robert Phelps, The New York Herald Tribune
In a comic-picaresque epic that is one part Cervantes and two parts Brecht, Paul Goodman gives us the coming-of-age of Horatio, a sane man in an absurd world. Our endearingly optimistic hero resists his compulsory mis-education, does battle with the System, and scours post–World War II Manhattan for an elective family of fellow-thinkers and, more important, fellow-feelers. It’s a big book, but Horatio’s is a big world, and his question the biggest a man can ask: “How does one live the right life?”
As Goodman once told Studs Terkel, “I might seem to have a number of divergent interests—community planning, psychotherapy, education, politics—but they are all one concern: how to make it possible to grow up as a human being into a culture without losing nature. I simply refuse to acknowledge that a sensible and honorable community does not exist.”
“The Empire City reads like Joseph Heller and William Gaddis doing a mid-twentieth-century version of an old educational romance like Rousseau’s Emile . . . This anti-realist, darkly comic narrative is . . . a remarkable achievement. Black Sparrow Press and Taylor Stoehr have done American literary history a major service by putting it back in print.”
—Thomas Hove, Review of Contemporary Fiction
Softcover, 271 pages
a novel by Paul Goodman
with drawings by Percival Goodman
and an afterword by Taylor Stoehr
Like Goodman’s Empire City, Parents’ Day is the story of a young man in search of community, but the author’s model here is not Cervantes, Brecht, or Rousseau but rather the Hawthorne of The Blithedale Romance. The nameless narrator of this notorious novel, first published privately in 1951 in an edition of five hundred copies, finds employment as a teacher in an idealistic, forward-thinking boys’ school. As in Blithedale, the health of the group is the One Great Good here, and that good is threatened at every turn by love between individuals. The narrator breaks the unwritten law of the group when he has a romantic affair—not with a fellow-teacher but worse, with a student. Once the narrator gives in to forbidden love, his sense of community grows dim, and in its place appears a vivid paranoid fantasy that the authorities are on his trail—as they will be, soon enough. What perversity is this that a man can yearn for the extinguishing of his self in perfect communion with others and yet, once he finds such perfect communion, can also yearn for expulsion from the group through acting on selfish desire?
Taylor Stoehr, in his brilliant afterword, says: “It is half the lesson of growing up that, apart from the world of damaged characters doing their best and their worst, there is no society, no community. Life is what it is. The other half of the lesson of growing up is that, just as there is no community apart from the society that we all inhabit, so there is no key, no solution, to the problem of one’s own nature and fate.” The great problem for Goodman’s narrator is that, for all of his longing for community, his chosen community will not have him, not on his own terms—and he will accept no others. This is a life-problem worthy of exploration by a latter-day Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Softcover, 276 pages
Softcover, 328 pages
Softcover, 312 pages
The Collected Stories of Paul Goodman
edited by Taylor Stoehr
“Any page of Paul Goodman will give you not only originality and brilliance but wisdom—that is, something to think about. He is our peculiar, urban, twentieth-century Thoreau, the quintessential American mind of our time.”
During his lifetime, Paul Goodman published three volumes of short fiction (1945, 1949, 1960) and a new and selected stories (1968). The present four-volume Collected Stories, edited by Goodman’s literary executor, Taylor Stoehr, includes all of Paul Goodman’s collected stories and sketches, as well as dozens that appeared only in periodicals or were found in typescript after the author’s death. Volume 1 of the series, The Break-up of Our Camp: Stories 1932–1935, is currently out of stock.
Volume 2: A Ceremonial
These twenty-four stories—some traditional and realistic, others experimental and “cubist”—were written when Goodman was in his late twenties, a student at the University of Chicago living the life of a romantic artist-outsider. They reveal a rebel at odds with American institutions yet also homesick for his native New York, the pleasures of family, and the comforts of a strong moral order. When the title story was published in the New Directions annual, Klaus Mann commented that “the tone of this young American voice reminds me of certain venerable accents long-known and ever-loved—the accents of Goethe’s mellow wisdom,” which is the wisdom of a youth capable of seeing himself from an adult’s perspective.
Volume 3: The Facts of Life
In these stories and sketches, written when he was undergoing rigorous Reichian psychoanalysis and establishing himself as a young man of letters in Greenwich Village, the mature Goodman begins to emerge—here, at last, is the storyteller as critic of society, the first-person essayist as pilgrim of the soul. Plot, character, and setting now become secondary to the narrator’s criticism of American life and insights into personal psychology—this is fiction as the record of an inward search toward hard-won self-understanding. In these stories, writes Stoehr, “Goodman found a new way to cope with the old problem of alienation, of the relations of the ego to the soul and to the world: accept the world, in which natural powers and beautiful human virtues do exist (no matter what other intellectuals think); accept the ego as that part of the self which makes daring formulations about the world; accept the soul, from whose depths come song.”
Volume 4: The Galley to Mytilene
This final collection of Goodman’s short fiction contains many of his best-known stories, including the much-anthologized “Our Visit to Niagra” and “Adam.” After the egoistic rage and alienation of the Thirties and Forties come these “dialectic tales” of the Fifties, stories in which Goodman explores the archetype of the divided self––Theseus and the Minotaur, man and boy, Adam in exile and Adam in the Garden––and attempts to reconcile the two. Here Society (“the only world have,” carrying the weight of history and the responsibilities of culture) is in compelling dialogue with the Artist (innocence and instinct, the source of energy, imagination, and life). No longer enemies, they try to heal each other. “Relent, remedy,” is the refrain of these tales, which are mythic, American, subtle, and beautiful, never dry, shrill, or schematic. Even after the success of Growing Up Absurd and his late essays, Goodman considered his stories of the Fifties his best work, not only in fiction but in any genre.
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