MY NAME IS SAROYAN by William Saroyan


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All of the stories that Saroyan first published, 1933-63, in three Boston-based Armenian journals: 106 short pieces (most 2-3 pages long), only 32 of which were later republished in anthologies and collections. Not too surprisingly--since Saroyan was an eager, shrewd recycler of his work--there are no real forgotten gems here; the best stories are the familiar ones, including the much-reprinted ""The Broken Wheel"" (1933) and ""The Insurance Salesman, the Peasant, the Rug Merchant, and the Potted Plant."" And much of the material is of marginal interest at best: bland or murky philosophical musings; notes; a few frail attempts at Benchley-style humor. But those seeking biographical insights and shadings (especially in the light of recent, one-sided biographies by son Aram Saroyan) will find valuable, intriguing references throughout this collection: Saroyan's recollections of feelings about his father's death; a plain, sad vignette involving two scared little brothers in ""The Empty House""; self-portraits of the writer; two later pieces involving Saroyan as father with his two children; and several stories in the My Name is Aram vein--with sketches of relatives and friends. Also, for the literary-history record, Saroyan's very first slivers of playwrighting are preserved here, along with several narrative experiments. And flashes of prime-Saroyan show up now and again in the lesser-known material: marvelous snatches of everyday, absurdist dialogue; a passing put-down of Edmund Wilson (""He's just a little guy who knows how to look athletic in what he writes""); an evocative, resonant sketch of a kid thrilled with a flashlight (since ""you could never have a revolver or a horse""); monologues reminiscent of Time of Your Life; and a quintessential 1939 routine about Life, The Magazine. (""However, what about life? What about the real thing? It's a wonderful magazine. It's improving American life all the time. It's fine for the children. Excellent for the forty-year-old bores everywhere. . . . Marvelous for debutantes, their mothers, their grandmothers, and others. But what about the real thing?"") Not the Saroyan treasure-trove that his fans might hope for, then, but a welcome, sometimes engaging addition to the shelf--complete with conscientious notes and a rather shrill introduction (stressing Saroyan's Armenian heritage) by Armenian Review editor Tashjian.

Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 1983
Publisher: Coward-McCann