FRIENDS IN THE WORLD: The Education of a Writer by Aram Saroyan

FRIENDS IN THE WORLD: The Education of a Writer

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We were young, we were arrogant, we were irreverent, we were foolish. But we were right."" So remarked Abbie Hoffman in 1988, reflecting on his yippie years--and, here, Saroyan emphatically concurs. ""A young man lucky enough to come of age in America during the sixties,"" the novelist (The Romantic, 1988) and biographer (Trio, 1985) now looks back with a curious mix of insight, anecdote, and trivia on his own rites of passage and the friends who shared them. Once a fastidious pothead, Saroyan read for the title role in The Graduate, hung out with other literary hopefuls, and ran into Bob Dylan at the local pharmacy. Starting up a magazine with a small inheritance, he was subsequently denounced by a congressman for his one-word poem ""Lighght,"" and drifted casually from place to place before settling with wife Gailyn (and children Strawberry and Cream) in Bolinas, California, a hip artists' colony. As time passed, Saroyan wrestled with the concept of the literary life (""a flagrant myth, and not necessarily a harmless one"") and became reconciled with father William only as he lay dying. Though full of famous people and unique occasions (e.g., the time that Ed Sanders collected pubic hairs from an assembly of poets for his mail-order catalogue), Saroyan's slim volume is sometimes unsatisfying. He alludes to a process of growth and self-discovery but rarely examines anything up close; and, while he apparently found friendships to be transformative and suggests that the pressure of supporting a family provided another large influence on the course of his life, he skims over the details and offers only thin conclusions in a very quiet prose. Even so, a book with guest appearances by Charlie Mingus, Ted Berrigan, Allen Ginsberg, and an aging Jack Kerouac has its own inherent appeal.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
Page count: 148pp
Publisher: Coffee House