Madness in the Family (Magill Book Reviews)
Plays such as the Pulitzer prize-winning THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE introduced William Saroyan to a wide American audience, but he is best remembered now as the author of very personal, unusual short stories. Early in his career, Saroyan vowed to forget everyone who had written before him. At the age of eleven he wrote: “Do not pay any attention to the rules other people make.” Like most such edicts, this one could not be followed to the letter, but Saroyan’s prose can certainly be described as innovative.
Born in Fresno, California, Saroyan often returned in his writing to the agricultural milieu of California’s Central Valley and to the ethnicity of the first-generation American-Armenians with whom he grew up. Several stories in the present collection evoke this ambience, although now the setting extends well beyond the author’s childhood. Aram, for example, whom readers will remember from MY NAME IS ARAM, has become a young lawyer.
Other recurring subjects include the vagaries of married life and love, and a father’s relationships with his children. Saroyan’s exposition varies from what strikes the reader as rather orthodox fiction to story fragments and even to thinly disguised exhortations.
Saroyan’s familiar tone is pervasive, but age now sometimes mutes the intoxication with life that appeared in Saroyan’s first collection, THE DARING YOUNG MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE. In one story of MADNESS IN THE FAMILY, a...
(The entire section is 376 words.)
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