Synopses & Reviews
In his epic novel The Empire City
hailed by the New York Times
as "a witty, exasperating, thoughtful, fantastic hymn to New York City and to the destructiveness of modern life" Goodman dissects urban society with iconoclastic exuberance. His flamboyant, poetic narrative follows the exploits of a born rebel alter-ego, slyly named Horatio Alger, as he pursues an eclectic education on mean streets, constantly "spoiling for a fight":
Somewhere there is the enemy. What strength and weapons will he have
to meet him with?...First, there is the simple sling and shot that hits the
booby in the brow. Second, there is the eloquent trumpet that makes the
walls fall down. And third, the arrows of desire...
A bohemian roman à clef which Goodman worked on for decades and originally published serially "as separate fictions" in the Forties and Fifties, The Empire City
brilliantly revivifies a chaotic time in our intellectual and political history. As critic Harold Rosenberg points out, the novelist here converts "events that happened to the author and his friends in New York City during the Depression, the war and the postwar years...into parables of their successive ideas and cults....The Empire City
could have been subtitled The Memoirs of an Ideologist. Not only is his hero a street urchin, the novel itself is, among other things, a tract on behalf of urchinism. Unlike naïve conceptualists and joiners, Goodman takes in ideas in order to get rid of them....The Knower, with his Reichean pantomime of eroticism, suffering, fury, defiance, supplies a reverse kind of farce in The Empire City
"Breathless and drunk on modernity, childish, bawdy, and at times inscrutably theoretical, social critic Paul Goodman's epic lurches through three decades of war-addled New York....The book works as a psychological thumbprint...to assemble symbol next to symbol, as in dreams, the images only meaning something in the feeling they leave with you when you wake up." The Village Voice
This is the thirty year epic story of Horatio, an idealist who struggles to learn the hardest lesson of all -- how to take his place in a conformist society and still retain his personal identity.
About the Author
Paul Goodman (1911-1972), social scientist, novelist, poet, psychiatrist, educator, philosopher of the New Left, author of such notable critiques of conformist conditioning as Growing Up Absurd and Compulsory Mis-education, dedicated his considerable creative energies to diagnosing and finding remedies for midcentury American societys manifold ills.