Close encounters of the Saroyan kind: tender-ferocious, corny-profound, dead-smiling memories of relatives and strangers, arranged in curlicues of off-rhythmic, gravely nose-thumbing free association. Unpublished writers, Armenian wrestlers, shoemakers, lawyers, life comedians (as opposed to stage comedians, who have ""the most unbelievable and unbearable order of pomposity known to the human race""), enemies, an uncle, a daughter, a son, and ""a good variety of all-around international mothers""--these bits of humanity collected in Fresno, Frisco, N.Y., and Paris are Saroyan's people, not the celebs he met (""Well, why not write about Bennet Cerf?/ Well, I don't want to""). Avoidance of glamour allows Saroyan to muse on the process of remembering or the process of hating, on money and food, on poseurs (""But how amusing a phony can sometimes be, just so the phony doesn't happen to be your wife, for instance""), or on the Saroyan family madness: ""a kind of abstract sorrow that sooner or later impels any member to flip his lid."" And indeed a kind of abstract sorrow runs through these 36 tiny vignettes, so many of them ending with ""Later, I'd heard he'd had a nervous breakdown"" or ""finally I heard that he had died."" It's easy to forget what a master of spare prose poetry (which should be read aloud for full juiciness) Saroyan is, and this thin, momentum-less but abrasively adorable book--even as it reminds us, slightly uncomfortably, of so many Saroyan stories--reminds us what a rare and tender talent is his.