This final collection of Goodman’s short fiction contains many of his best-known stories, including the much-anthologized “Our Visit to Niagra” and “Adam.” After the egoistic rage and alienation of the Thirties and Forties come these “dialectic tales” of the Fifties, stories in which Goodman explores the archetype of the divided self Theseus and the Minotaur, man and boy, Adam in exile and Adam in the Garden and attempts to reconcile the two.
Society (“the only world have,” carrying the weight of history and the responsibilities of culture) is in compelling dialogue with the Artist (innocence and instinct, the source of energy, imagination, and life). No longer enemies, they try to heal each other. “Relent, remedy,” is the refrain of these tales, which are mythic, American, subtle, and beautiful, never dry, shrill, or schematic. Even after the success of Growing Up Absurd and his late essays, Goodman considered his stories of the 50s his best work, not only in fiction but in any genre.