Richard Goldstein


    I GUESS I WAS A COMMIE in high school, not because I knew much about the Soviet Union, but because I knew a lot about America in the ’50s, where wonder was confined to the material and politics was an arena of fear and loathing guarding the status quo. Some of my best friends were children of commies operating under pseudonyms so they could find work. We didn’t do much to manifest our politics, except for refusing to participate in air-raid drills and sitting around each other’s basements singing anthems of the Spanish Civil War. We were quite a puzzlement to our teachers: bright, convivial kids


    I GREW UP HAUNTED BY BANALITY. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what it meant: to be banal was to live in the suburbs; to carry the attaché and wear the necktie of conformity; to meet the 5:15, inhabit the bar car, and, when the conductor called out “Plasticville,” to be whisked past premeditated lawns to a split-level ranch; then into slippers and a pipe, and a night before the Dumont with the wife and kids. It was to dive dutifully into her crinolines as the moon set and to sip the coffee she had dutifully risen with the sun to brew; to die young of a punishing heart attack, and to realize,