Wednesday, April 30, 2014


I was going to write a blurb about a book entitled The Urban Villagers, by the preeminent sociologist Herbert Gans. But I then started to think of the person who gave me the book, who gave the gift of this book and so many others, and most of all, of himself, to his classes. And I thought, well, there should be a book about him. Until then..

Let's call the book that will one day be...Gordie (aka Gordon Fellman). For as such he has been known to his students since 1964, when he first came to Brandeis. Born in Nebraska, he attended Bard College, then received his Ph.D from Harvard.

He introduces you to class disparities right under your nose/eyes, as in the way two different stores appeal to completely different people, and how they treat customers. He participated in efforts to stave off the destruction of a neighborhood, but you only learn that as an extra bit of knowledge thrown in when he is talking about what happened to that particular neighborhood, and then, how, armed with foreknowledge, the residents and those who cared about them, were able to stop another effort to eradicate a similar neighborhood not far away.

The stores:  Woolworth's and Marimekko. The neighborhoods:  West End (now a seat of high rises) and the North End, still easily the most vibrant and interesting neighborhood in Boston.

Then, if you are lucky enough, you get a front row seat with two of your friends to attend the team taught class given by Gordie and George, as in George Ross. They discuss Freud and Marx. You watch in awe as they find occasional common ground but more differences between the two. Difficult to meld the psycho-personal and the revolutionary political. It fascinates all the more when they argue, without self-consciousness.

The one thing that stands out about Gordie in whatever class you see and hear him is his passion.  It helps, somehow, that he still cares about the injustices which continue to rage all over our planet. It helps that he actually did go to the Middle East and talk with Palestinians and Israelis who believe in peaceful relations with each other.

It helps that he still cares.

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