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Monday, December 26th, 2011

PAUL GOODMAN CHANGED MY LIFE

I can hardly claim the authorship of this title
because I must confess that before I sat down to watch this documentary, I have
never even heard of Paul Goodman.  Ooops!  But I know
now that he was man of many gifts; he was a critic, sociologist, philosopher,
poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, practicing psychiatrist, an urban planner
and an anarchist (Although Goodman considered anarchism not as a dogma, or a
set of principles, or a position but as an attitude.)  His fame was cemented in 1959 with the
publication of ‘Growing Up Absurd’ in which he rationalized that juvenile delinquency
was the result of alienated youth who were turned off by a society ‘not worthy of
human nature’.
Jonathan Lee’s thoughtful movie starts earlier and briefly
deals with Goodman’s impoverished upbringing when his father took up with a
mistress and  abandoned his young family.  Goodman
found his ‘voice’ as student at City College where he was part of the anti
World War 2 pacifists and when he first embraced Marxism. but as his literary
executer is keen to point out he never became a Communist.  After graduating he began writing for
prestigious literary journals such as ‘Commentary’ and became part of a clique
of New York Jewish Intellectuals.  By the
early 60’s his fame was such that we find him debating life with William F. Buckley
and Stokey Carmichael on TV.
Goodman, a twice-married man with three children, was
also unashamedly and openly gay, no mean feat in those days.  He would spend the mornings at home avidity
writing, then cruise the streets and the Piers of New York looking for some fun
and company, but always making a point of getting home again by teatime. His
close friends, and indeed his wife, acknowledged that he was driven by his sexuality, which featured prominently in his poetry and judging by the
couple narrated in this film accounted for some of his very best pieces.   One highly personal piece ends so poignantly
by repeating several times ‘happiness is so touch and go.’
He had a brilliant mind and though highly intellectual
possessed a remarkable talent for articulating his very forward thinking ideas
and principles that others could and did grasp easily. Ned Rorem the Composer
(who set some of Goodman’s poems to music) said that Goodman ‘never suffered
fools gladly, unless they were physically attractive’. Not a bad principle at all!  One can imagine when
Goodman taught that he would have been a wonderful teacher, but that part of
his career ended abruptly when he insisted that he had the right to fall in
love with his students!
In 1967 his son Mathew died in an accident and very
soon after that Goodman had his first heart attack, which was attributed to his
profound grief.  His boundless energy
dried up and so did his once prolific writing, and in 1972 he died after his 3rd
heartache at only 62 years old.
One of the interviewees in the documentary commented
of the great shame that Goodman’s work is unknown to such a vast majority
that if they could access it would marvel at both the ideology and the
prose.  I have to say that this rather sensitive insight to a
fascinating man has made me want to learn more (and I soon will thanks to Amazon).   Paul Goodman may not have changed my life,
but I am so very glad that he has enriched it for these past 89 minutes. So far.
★★★★★★★★


Posted by queerguru  at  23:17

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