OBITUARIES by William Saroyan


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Call him self-indulgent, self-destructive, undisciplined, and a bit loony--but you can't ever put William Saroyan in a convenient pigeonhole or dismiss the singularity of his unbuttoned muse. Here that muse isn't just unbuttoned; it's unfastened, unzipped, and three-quarters naked--as Saroyan weaves digressions within digressions inspired by the idea of Death and, specifically, by the 1976 Necrology in Variety, the showbiz newspaper. True, first Saroyan does a fairly conventional meditation on death (which somehow involves, however, Charles Dickens' extramarital shenanigans), but soon he's fully underway, lumbering through every name on the list of the 200+ showbiz ""stiffs"" of 1976. If Saroyan doesn't know who the dead person was--and, astonishingly his never-heard-ofs include Fritz Lang and Phil Ochs--he just free-associates to the name. So ""Mary Baker"" becomes a defense of Mary Baker Eddy; ""Milton Blow"" becomes a consideration of ""B.O.,"" sweat, and deodorants; ""David Blair"" suggests Betsy Blair--and theater memories; and ""Charles Brave"" activates a reflection on the state of trying to be a writer: ""I know a little something or other about being brave. . ."" These poor souls, however, should probably be thankful that Saroyan didn't know them; those he did know receive mostly sardonic eulogies, for instance, editor Arnold Gingrich (""He was worse than cheap""). And H. Allen Smith (""I knew him and one time in Hollywood he bored the bejesus out of me by his stupid telephone calls. . .""). Only stage designer Jo Mielziner (""another of the showbiz losers of 1976"") gets a genuine tribute. And all the dead are put in their place by Saroyan's continuing preoccupation with Life--with this book he's writing, with how much paper costs, with old grudges and loves. . . ""Reader, take my advice, don't die, just don't die, that's all, it doesn't pay, people aren't that sincere, they will pretend to be sorry but really they don't care. . ."" Often close to unreadable--but a boisterously Saroyanesque and weirdly cheering effusion nonetheless.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1979
Publisher: Creative Arts