Paul Goodman Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

By any standards, Paul Goodman was a prolific writer. In addition to his novels, he wrote collections of poetry, several of which were privately printed. The most noteworthy are The Lordly Hudson: Collected Poems (1962), Homespun of Oatmeal Gray (1970), and the Collected Poems (1973). He also published ten plays between 1941 and 1970 and three books of literary criticism: Kafka’s Prayer (1947), The Structure of Literature (1954), and Speaking and Language: Defence of Poetry (1971). Goodman also wrote a partial autobiography: Five Years: Thoughts During a Useless Time (1966). This list, however, represents only a fraction of his oeuvre, which includes more than thirty titles. In addition, he contributed regularly to and served as film-review editor of the Partisan Review and as a television critic for The New Republic.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Paul Goodman more closely approximates the Renaissance man than does perhaps any other twentieth century American of letters. A prolific writer in many genres—novels, poems, essays, dramas, short stories, literary criticism, education, sociology, and community planning—and the author of studies in psychotherapy, Goodman has entries under twenty-one different categories in the catalogs of the New York Public Library. He was not discovered by the reading public until 1960 as a result of his book Growing Up Absurd (1960), a spirited attack on the values of midcentury America. Because Goodman wrote in such diverse forms, he is not easily categorized. He shares with many of his colleagues, such as Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and Bernard Malamud, a perspective that is distinctly Jewish: a feeling for alienation, a skeptical nature that is allied with visionary tendencies, and a penchant for social justice. As a novelist, he is best remembered for The Empire City.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Fried, Lewis F. Makers of the City. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990. Fried demonstrates that Goodman’s exploration of the ideas of community and of urban culture unites his fiction and nonfiction. Includes detailed notes and bibliographical essay.

Gilman, Richard. Review of The Empire City, by Paul Goodman. Commonweal 70 (July 31, 1959): 401-402. This short article examines The Empire City as a part of the comic tradition of J. D. Salinger and Saul Bellow. Also cites Goodman’s debt to Franz Kafka for his sense of the bizarre. Objects to the sermonizing quality of Goodman’s fiction but notes that his characters are intended to teach us how to live.

Harrington, Michael. “On Paul Goodman.” Atlantic 216 (August, 1965): 88-91. This short article is a general review of Goodman’s work and a more intensive examination of his essays People or Personnel. Looks at Goodman as an existentialist critic of American life and as a philosopher of the student revolts of the 1960’s, finding his belief in the goodness of human nature naïve.

Nicely, Tom. Adam and His Work: A Bibliography of Sources by and About Paul Goodman, 1911-1972. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1979. A thorough bibliography.

Ostriker, Alicia. “Paul Goodman.”...

(The entire section is 483 words.)