WILLIAM SAROYAN (/səˈrɔɪ.ən/ ; August 31, 1908 – May 18,
1981) was an American novelist, playwright, and short story writer. He
was awarded the
Pulitzer Prize for Drama
He has been described in a Dickinson College news release as "one of the most prominent literary figures of the mid-20th century" and by Stephen Fry as "one of the most underrated writers of the century." Fry suggests that "he takes his place naturally alongside Hemingway , Steinbeck and Faulkner ."
* 1 Biography
* 1.1 Early years * 1.2 Career * 1.3 Personal life
* 2 Awards
* 3 Bibliography
* 3.1 Books * 3.2 Plays * 3.3 Short stories * 3.4 Poem * 3.5 Song
* 4 References * 5 Further reading * 6 External links
Saroyan as a youth
At the age of three, after his father's death, Saroyan, along with
his brother and sister, was placed in an orphanage in Oakland,
California . He later went on to describe his experience in the
orphanage in his writings. Five years later, the family reunited in
Fresno, where his mother, Takoohi, had already secured work at a
cannery. He continued his education on his own, supporting himself
with jobs, such as working as an office manager for the San Francisco
Saroyan decided to become a writer after his mother showed him some
of his father's writings. A few of his early short articles were
As a writer, Saroyan made his breakthrough in Story magazine with "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze" (1934), the title taken from the nineteenth century song of the same title . The protagonist is a young, starving writer who tries to survive in a Depression-ridden society.
Through the air on the flying trapeze, his mind hummed. Amusing it was, astoundingly funny. A trapeze to God, or to nothing, a flying trapeze to some sort of eternity; he prayed objectively for strength to make the flight with grace.
This character resembles the penniless writer in
Saroyan served in the US Army during
World War II
Saroyan worked rapidly, hardly editing his text, and drinking and gambling away much of his earnings. From 1958 on, he mainly resided in a Paris apartment.
I am an estranged man, said the liar: estranged from myself, from my family, my fellow man, my country, my world, my time, and my culture. I am not estranged from God, although I am a disbeliever in everything about God excepting God indefinable, inside all and careless of all. — from Here Comes There Goes You Know Who, 1961
Saroyan published essays and memoirs, in which he depicted the people
he had met on travels in the Soviet Union and Europe, such as the
George Bernard Shaw
Saroyan's stories celebrated optimism in the midst of the trials and tribulations of the Depression . Several of Saroyan's works were drawn from his own experiences, although his approach to autobiographical fact contained a fair bit of poetic license .
His advice to a young writer was: "Try to learn to breathe deeply; really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell." Saroyan endeavored to create a prose style full of zest for life and seemingly impressionistic, that came to be called "Saroyanesque".
Saroyan's plays were drawn from deeply personal sources, and often disregarded the convention that conflict is essential to drama. My Heart's in the Highlands (1939), his first play, was a comedy about a young boy and his Armenian family. It was produced at the Guild Theatre in New York.
Saroyan is probably best remembered for his play The Time of Your Life (1939), set in a waterfront saloon in San Francisco. It won a Pulitzer Prize , which Saroyan refused on the grounds that commerce should not judge the arts; he did accept the New York Drama Critics\' Circle award. The play was adapted into a 1948 film starring James Cagney .
Before the war, Saroyan worked on the screenplay of Golden Boy (1939), based on Clifford Odets 's play , but he never had much success in Hollywood and after his disappointment with the Human Comedy film project, he never permitted any Hollywood screen adaptation of any of his novels regardless of his financial straits.
The Human Comedy (1943) is set in the fictional California town of
Ithaca in the
San Joaquin Valley (based on Saroyan's memories of
"Mrs. Sandoval," Homer said swiftly, "your son is dead. Maybe it's a mistake. Maybe it wasn't your son. Maybe it was somebody else. The telegram says it was Juan Domingo. But maybe the telegram is wrong... — from The Human Comedy
Saroyan was hired to write the screenplay and direct the film for MGM
Louis B. Mayer
Interest in Saroyan's novels declined after the war, when he was criticized for sentimentality. Freedom, brotherly love, and universal benevolence were for him basic values, but his idealism was considered out of step with the times. He still wrote prolifically, so that one of his readers could ask "How could you write so much good stuff and still write such bad stuff?"
In the novellas The Assyrian and other stories (1950) and in The Laughing Matter (1953) Saroyan mixed allegorical elements within a realistic novel. The plays Sam Ego's House (1949) and The Slaughter of the Innocents (1958) were not as successful as his prewar plays. Many of Saroyan's later plays, such as The Paris Comedy (1960), The London Comedy (1960), and Settled Out of Court (1969), premiered in Europe. Manuscripts of a number of unperformed plays are now at Stanford University with his other papers.
When Ernest Hemingway learned that Saroyan had made fun of the controversial non-fiction work Death in the Afternoon , Hemingway responded: "We've seen them come and go. Good ones too. Better ones than you, Mr. Saroyan."
In the late 1960s and the 1970s, Saroyan earned more money and finally got out of debt.
Saroyan also painted. He said: "I made drawings before I learned how to write. The impulse to do so seems basic – it is both the invention and the use of language." His abstract expressionist works were exhibited by the Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York City.
Saroyan had a correspondence with writer Sanora Babb that began in 1932 and ended in 1941, that grew into an unrequited love affair on Saroyan's part.
In 1943, Saroyan married actress Carol Marcus (1924–2003; also known as Carol Grace), with whom he had two children, Aram , who became an author and published a book about his father, and Lucy , who became an actress. By the late 1940s, Saroyan's drinking and gambling took a toll on his marriage, and in 1949, upon returning from an extended European trip, he filed for divorce. They were remarried briefly in 1951 and divorced again in 1952 with Marcus later claiming in her autobiography, Among the Porcupines: A Memoir, that Saroyan was abusive.
Carol subsequently married actor
Saroyan died in Fresno, of prostate cancer at age 72. Half of his
ashes were buried in California and the remainder in
2013 Parajanov-Vartanov Institute Award posthumously honored William Saroyan for The Time of Your life play and the Human Comedy novel and was presented to his granddaughter by Academy Award-winning Hollywood actor Jon Voight
William Saroyan's tomb at Yerevan's Komitas Pantheon
* The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935) * Inhale and Exhale (1936) * Three Times Three (1936) * Little Children (1937) * The Trouble With Tigers (1938) * Peace, It's Wonderful (1939) * Love Here Is My Hat (1938) * My Name Is Aram (1940) * Razzle-Dazzle (1942) * The Human Comedy (1943) * Get Away Old Man (1944) * Dear Baby (1944) * The Adventures of Wesley Jackson (1946) * The Twin Adventures (1950) Saroyan's journal with reprint of Wesley Jackson * Rock Wagram (1951) * Tracy\'s Tiger (1952) * The Bicycle Rider in Beverly Hills (1952) * The Laughing Matter (1953) * Love (1955) * The Whole Voyald and Other Stories (1956) * Mama I Love You (1956) * Papa You're Crazy (1957)
* Here Comes, There Goes, You Know Who (1962)
* "Gaston" (1962), short story collected in Madness...
* Me: A Modern Masters Book for Children (1963), illustrated by Murray Tinkelman * Not Dying (1963) * One Day in the Afternoon of the World (1964) * Short Drive, Sweet Chariot (1966) * I Used to Believe I Had Forever, Now I'm Not So Sure (1968) * The Man with the Heart in the Highlands and other stories (1968) * Letters from 74 rue Taitbout (1971) * Places Where I've Done Time 1972 (original printing possibly 1957) * Days of Life and Death and Escape to the Moon (1973) * Sons Come and Go, Mothers Hang In Forever (1976) * Chance Meetings (1978) * Obituaries (1979) * Births (1983) * My name is Saroyan (1983) * Madness in the Family (1988), collected late stories
The Time of Your Life (1939) – winner of the New York Drama
Critics\' Circle and the
Pulitzer Prize for Drama
* My heart’s in the Highlands * The time of your life * Love’s old sweet song
* Love's Old Sweet Song * The Agony of Little Nations (1940) * Subway Circus (1940) * Hello Out There (1941) * Across the Board on Tomorrow Morning (1941) * The Beautiful People (1941) * Bad Men in the West (1942) * Talking to You (1942) * Coming Through the Rye (1942) * Don't Go Away Mad (1947) * Jim Dandy (1947) * The Slaughter of the Innocents (1952) * The Oyster and the Pearl (Television Play) (1953) * The Stolen Secret (1954) * A Midsummer Daydream (Television Play) (1955) * The Cave Dwellers (1958) * Sam, The Highest Jumper Of Them All, or the London Comedy (1960) * Hanging around the Wabash (1961) * The Dogs, or the Paris Comedy (1969) * Armenian (1971) * Assassinations (1974) * Tales from the Vienna Streets (1980) * An Armenian Trilogy (1986) * The Parsley Garden (1992)
* "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8" * "An Ornery Kind of Kid" * "The Filipino and the Drunkard" * "Gaston" (date unknown) * "The Hummingbird That Lived Through Winter" * "Knife-Like, Flower-Like, Like Nothing At All in the World" (1942) * "The Mourner" * "The Parsley Garden" * "Resurrection of a Life" (1935) * The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse (1938) * "Seventy Thousand Assyrians" (1934) * "The Shepherd's Daughter" * "Sweetheart Sweetheart Sweetheart" * "Third day after Christmas" (1926) * "Five Ripe Pears" (1935) * "Pomegranate Trees" (year unknown) * "Seventeen" (written during the Great Depression, in the collection of The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze and Other Stories
* "The Barber´s Uncle"
* ^ "Relative to
* ^ "One-Man Show Tells Pulitzer-Prize Winning Author\'s Story".
Dickinson College . September 2, 2001. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
* ^ 13th Annual Beverly Hills Film Festival Announces Award Winners
at Gala Awards Ceremony. May 12, 2013. Retrieved May 3, 2017
* ^ Hamalian 1987 , p. 23.
* ^ A B "William Saroyan".
Anita Shapolsky Gallery NYC.
* ^ Carl Nolte (September 4, 2008). "S.F. gathering celebrates
Saroyan\'s centennial; Living, working and carousing in San Francisco,
Fresno-born author chronicled the human comedy". SFGate.
* ^ "The Expressive Edge of Paper". The Huffington Post.
* ^ In Celebration of the Exhibition, The Writer as Artist:
Lawrence Ferlinghetti and William Saroyan. Anita Shapolsky Gallery,
National Arts Club (New York, N.Y.).
* ^ "The Writer\'s Brush; September 11th – October 27th, 2007".
Anita Shapolsky Gallery NYC.
* ^ "Volume 19, Issues 6–8". Art & Auction Magazine. 1997.
* ^ "Theater Hall of Fame Enshrines 51 Artists". www.nytimes.com.
* ^ Balakian, Nona (1998). The World of
* Hamalian, Leo (1987). William Saroyan: the man and the writer remembered. Rutherford, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 9780838633083 . * Saroyan: His Heart In The Highlands (2008)
* Balakian, N., 1998. The World of William Saroyan. * Floan, H. R., 1966. William Saroyan. * Foster, E. H., 1984. William Saroyan. * Foster, E. H., 1991. William Saroyan: A Study in the Shorter Fiction. * Gifford, Barry, and Lee, Lawrence, 1984. Saroyan. * Hamalian, Leo, ed. (1987). William Saroyan: The Man and the Writer Remembered. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press . ISBN 9780838633083 . * Keyishan, H., 1995. Critical Essays in William Saroyan. * Leggett, John, 2002. A Daring Young Man: A Biography of William Saroyan. * Linde, Mauricio D. Aguilera, 2002, "Saroyan and the Dream of Success: The American Vaudeville as a Political Weapon," 11.1 (Winter): 18–31. * Radavich, David. "War of the Wests: Saroyan's Dramatic Landscape." American Drama 9:2 (Spring 2000): 29–49. * Samuelian, Varaz, 1985. Willie Stevens, Janice (2008). William Saroyan: Places in Time. Fresno: Craven Street Books. ISBN 9781933502243 .
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