Greenpoint, October, 2015

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Son of (Jeffersonian) Anarchy

Paul Goodman
Friday, 6 P.M. A more than average service delay on the 1-2-3 line. Rather than cursing the MTA, I decided to wait it out in the Symphony Space cafe with a glass of red wine and a Polish newspaper. I came across a photo of the "European Day without Automobiles" from Warsaw. Predictably, the highway is as clogged as ever--Poles use the term korki, or corks, for traffic jams.

This led me to think of Paul Goodman and his proposal, with architect brother Percival, which appeared in Dissent in 1961 to ban all cars from Manhattan except for "buses, small taxis, vehicles for essential services (doctor, police, sanitation, vans, etc.), and the trucking used in light industry." Looking it up on line, I discovered that we just passed the 100th anniversary of Goodman's birth, September 9, 1911 (he died in 1972).

So let us celebrate this truly extraordinary figure. It would take more space than this blog allows to detail all of his accomplishments and endeavors: psychologist (founder of Gestalt therapy), novelist, playwright, superb poet, literary critic, educator, social activist, and (as described in his poetry, at least), a pretty good handball player.  Goodman's social criticism has influenced many, from leaders of SDS to Ivan Illich (Deschooling Society) to Susan Sontag to your correspondent.

Though best known for Growing Up Absurd, I recommend New Reformation: Notes of a Neolithic Conservative, published just a year before Goodman's death, as a starting place.
When I was a dazed and confused second-year middle school teacher, a much more experienced educator put this book in my hands, and I can truly say it saved my sanity--thank you Larry. A documentary about Goodman, called Paul Goodman Changed My Life, is due soon.

And if you are looking for a link to fellow centenarian, Flann O'Brien, this illustration from the Goodmans' proposal of a small taxi (thus conserving even more space for living) has the hallmarks of Myles' Research Bureau. Not sure why Abe Lincoln is one of the passengers, probably to demonstrate the commodious headroom of the cab.
All Hail, Paul Goodman!

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