Richard Goffman spent the 1970s teaching English in Long Branch, NJ, at the High School and the Junior High School, and in Dover, NJ, at the Middle School. He spent the ’80s, ’90s, and half the ’00s in marketing, mostly in the home entertainment industry. In 2005 he returned to teaching, in Paterson, NJ, where he once again taught English, Creative Writing, Journalism and Advanced Placement Language and Composition. He retired from public school teaching in July 2014 and was soon hired as an adjunct professor of English at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ.
What would the relationships be like between that teacher, and the couple of generations of students, and families of students he would come to know and influence? What about the other denizens of that town? What kind of reputation would he have? What kind of influence? What kind of pitfalls?
From this kind of dangerous thinking emerged William Bachman. And where to set this teacher and this school? I didn’t have to think too long about it. I had worked the first eight years or so of my career in Long Branch, NJ at the Jersey shore. That town had beauty and ugliness, it had familiarity and magical strangeness, and it had enough racial, ethnic and economic diversity to yield no end of characters. It was “about a mile down the dark side of Route 88,” so I said, “let’s try it.” This was a character, and a setting, that a writer could work on for the rest of his life if he wanted to.