1. "How to be useful and make something of oneself"?

    image   image

    Mother love is said to be sacred in America, but with all the reverence and lip service she is paid, mom is a pretty safe target, no matter how correctly or incorrectly her failures are interpreted. No one has ever been blacklisted or fired for an attack on ‘the American woman.’ Apart from the psychological pressures from mothers or wives, there have been plenty of nonsexual pressures in the America of the last decade—the compromising, never-ceasing, competition, the anonymous and often purposeless work in the big organization—that also kept a man from feeling like a man. Safer to take it out on his wife and his mother than to recognize a failure in himself or in the sacred American way of life. The men were not always kidding when they said their wives were lucky to be able to stay at home all day. It was also soothing to rationalize the rat race by telling themselves that they were in it ‘for the wife and kids.’ And so men re-created their own childhood in suburbia, and made mothers of their wives. Men fell for the mystique without a murmur of dissent. It promised them mothers for the rest of their lives, both as a reason for their being and as an excuse for their failures. Is it so strange that boys who grow up with too much love become men who can never get enough?

    —From Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary of publication. After reading this section we realized that Friedan and Paul Goodman (Growing Up Absurd), despite having completely opposite subjects—housewives for the former, male juvenile delinquents for the latter—, actually have the same social goal in mind.

  2. My guess is that the pride of country is engendered by one good decision, or even a good powerful dissenting opinion, of the least traditional Supreme Court, than by billions of repetitions of the pledge of allegiance.

    —Paul Goodman in Growing Up Absurd (in a chapter called “Patriotism.”)

  3. The plain truth is that at present many of us are useless, not needed, rationally unemployable. It is in this paradox atmosphere that young people grow up. It looks busy and expansive, but it is rationally at a stalemate.

    —Paul Goodman, Growing Up Absurd, from the chapter suitably titled “Jobs.”

  4. newstatesman:

Adam Kirsch reviews Growing Up Absurd, New York “fringe” writer Paul Goodman’s 1960s essay, newly reissued by New York Review Books Classics.

The one time when Goodman’s obsessions intersected perfectly with those of the age came in 1960, when he published Growing Up Absurd. This long essay or tract, just reissued by New York Review Books Classics, was one of the early tremors of what would become the 1960s earthquake. Like Herbert Marcuse and Norman O Brown, Goodman was taken up by the counterculture and the new left, who found in him a rare member of the older generation who really got it.
Goodman’s ghost would be appeased to see all the tributes to Growing Up Absurd that proliferate on the internet, more than 50 years later. Young readers still find it relevant, inspiring, intimate, true; they write of copying out long passages by hand and giving copies to everyone they know. The personal power they feel is registered in the title of a recent documentary about him, Paul Goodman Changed My Life. For, like The Catcher in the Rye, a book with which it bears a spiritual affinity, Growing Up Absurd brilliantly evokes the adolescent’s private sense of being misunderstood by a heartless and empty world. It is, as Holden Caulfield would say, the kind of book that makes you want to call up the author on the phone…

    newstatesman:

    Adam Kirsch reviews Growing Up Absurd, New York “fringe” writer Paul Goodman’s 1960s essay, newly reissued by New York Review Books Classics.

    The one time when Goodman’s obsessions intersected perfectly with those of the age came in 1960, when he published Growing Up Absurd. This long essay or tract, just reissued by New York Review Books Classics, was one of the early tremors of what would become the 1960s earthquake. Like Herbert Marcuse and Norman O Brown, Goodman was taken up by the counterculture and the new left, who found in him a rare member of the older generation who really got it.

    Goodman’s ghost would be appeased to see all the tributes to Growing Up Absurd that proliferate on the internet, more than 50 years later. Young readers still find it relevant, inspiring, intimate, true; they write of copying out long passages by hand and giving copies to everyone they know. The personal power they feel is registered in the title of a recent documentary about him, Paul Goodman Changed My Life. For, like The Catcher in the Rye, a book with which it bears a spiritual affinity, Growing Up Absurd brilliantly evokes the adolescent’s private sense of being misunderstood by a heartless and empty world. It is, as Holden Caulfield would say, the kind of book that makes you want to call up the author on the phone…

  5. Paul Goodman’s Growing Up Absurd

    The phrase ‘the Organized System’ made people uncomfortable in 1960, and judging by my students’ more recent reaction, it still makes people uncomfortable now. Yet this discomfort was part of what interested Goodman. As a social critic and lay psychologist, he saw an underlying symmetry between the ideological assumption that there was no Organized System and the evidence that many people were reacting against it. It was obvious, for instance, that beatniks and juvenile delinquents were repelled by what the Organized System and its dominant values asked of them. But it was equally obvious that their alternative values represented little more than symbolic opposition, efforts to flee rather than adjust. Beneath the appearance of disparate responses, Goodman saw a common cultural condition. The Organized System stripped everyone of the same human goods — ‘force, grace, discrimination, intellect, feeling’; people merely reflected the costs they suffered differently. (‘This is the beautiful shaping power of our human nature,’ he wrote.) It was on this basis that Goodman staked his main ethical claim: ‘We do not need to be able to say what ‘human nature’ is in order to be able to say that some training is ‘against human nature’ and you persist in it at peril…. Contrariwise, if you don’t provide [people] with certain things, they’ll fill the gaps with eccentric substitutes.’

    —an excellent essay on Paul Goodman’s Growing Up Absurd by Michael Fisher in Full Stop, who also published an interview about the book with Casey Nelson Blake, the introducter to our edition. For anyone interested in Occupy Wall Street this book is a must. 

  6. Fall 2012 Books preview: Part I

    As we prepare to officially launch our Fall 2012 list we wanted to share our upcoming books. This is the first part of the season, and we’ll post the remainder later:

    Growing Up Absurd by Paul Goodman: Paul Goodman was a sociologist, philosopher, poet, writer, educator, anarchist, and gay rights activist. He was one of the most influential thinkers in the second half of the 20th century, and helped inspire the student movements of the 1960s. Growing Up Absurd is his most famous and influential book on education, work, and simply growing up, and was a bestseller in its day.

    Voltaire in Love by Nancy Mitford: In the hands of Nancy Mitford the story of the sixteen-year affair between Voltaire and Madame du Châtelet is more than a biography of the world-renowned philosophe and the ground-breaking female scientist: it is an engaging and fresh love story set in a moment of rapidly evolving history.

    Young Man with a Horn by Dorothy Baker: Based on the life of the notoriously hip and talented Bix Beiderbecke, this novel shows how jazz music overtook the life of a young man, who, unable to reconcile his music with his life, drives himself quickly to destruction.

    Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker: Cassandra Edwards—gay, brilliant, nerve-wracked, miserable—is bent on destroying her twin sister’s wedding. How much of this is her rejection of conventional mores? Or is her own instability stopping her from accepting her sister’s new life?

    Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis: One of the most celebrated comic novels of all time, particularly known for its famed hangover scene. It is the story of Jim Dixon who seethingly endures the mediocrity of provincial, collegiate life, until he can take it no longer and lets forth one of the funniest, and ultimately successful, rebellions of all time.

    The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis: A story of aging, resentment, enduring love, and friendship that won the Booker Prize in 1986. Martin Amis considers The Old Devils to be his father’s best work.

    The Stammering Century by Gilbert Seldes: Before the United States was a global powerhouse, it was a hotbed of religious dissent and movements, whose practioners feared the wrath of God and bravely struck through a harsh landscape to help their distant neighbors find Salvation. Those interested in the foundation of contemporary America’s various faiths will finds the stories here.

    The Other by Thomas Tryon: Following closely after the publication of Rosemary’s Baby, The Other was a huge financial and critical hit and a prime example of the birth of modern horror fiction. A scary tale of 13-year old twins, one good and the other very, very evil.

    Basti by Intizar Husain: Set in the heart of India and Pakistan’s bloody, and today still resonant, Partition, Basti, similar to Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss, shows how religious intolerance and nationalist politics can tear apart towns, friends, and families. An important novel considering Pakistan’s position in the world today.

    Going to the Dogs by Erich Kästner: Berlin during the Weimar era was a time of artistic creation and financial ruin. The characters in Going to the Dogs spend their days hanging on to any job or money they can get, and their nights running riot in cabarets. All the while a political and human disaster is hanging over their heads.

  7. Growing Up Absurd e-book

    In June of 2012 we will be publishing Paul Goodman’s Growing Up Absurd. However, once we learnt that Zeitgeist Films was releasing a documentary by Jonathan Lee called Paul Goodman Changed My Life in the Fall of 2011, we decided to take advantage of this wonderful film and speed up the release of the e-book, which is now on sale. Growing Up Absurd was a bestseller when it was released in 1960, and became one of the defining texts of the nascent New Left. Goodman was a maverick anarchist who broke every mold—he was a novelist, poet, and a social theorist among other things—and the book’s success established him as one of America’s most unusual and trenchant critics, combining vast learning, an astute mind, utopian sympathies, and a wonderfully hands-on way with words. If this sounds like your kind of book, you can buy the e-book now.

  8. Paul Goodman Changed My Life

    Last night a handful of us went to see Paul Goodman Changed My Life at the Film Forum in NYC. The keynote on the film’s poster reads “The most influential man you’ve never heard of,” and while many remember him very well, still others are unaware of his impact. Goodman was a philosopher, activist who became very influential in the 60s student and anti-Vietman movements, founder of Gestalt theory, novelist, poet, utopian city-planner, queer rights activist, and anarchist. He was a prolific writer, but probably his most famous book is Growing Up Absurd, that we will publish in print next year, and are as an e-book before the end of this year. The film is playing at Film Forum till Thursday—so if you live in NYC do try to make it soon—and will have other screenings around the US and world (check the website).

    We are excited to publish Growing Up Absurd, and feel that the time is right for Goodman’s legacy to be shared with our readers and fans.

  9. The Most Influential Man You’ve Never Heard Of: Paul Goodman

    Opening today: Paul Goodman Changed My Life

    Forthcoming from NYRB Classics, Goodman’s Growing Up Absurd

    So who was Paul Goodman? As the trailer says, he was a public intellectual, a social critic, a poet, a playright, a queer pioneer, a pacifist anarchist, an urban planner, a family man, a co-founder of gestalt therapy—and a whole lot of other things that scrolled by too quickly to catch.