Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
William Saroyan was born in Fresno, California, on August 31, 1908, the son of Armenak and Takoohi Saroyan, poor Armenian immigrants. In 1911, when his father died, Saroyan was put into an Oakland orphanage with his brother, Henry, and his two sisters, Cosette and Zabel, but in 1915 he returned to Fresno with his family. Over the following decade, Saroyan attended school in Fresno and held various after-school jobs, including work as a telegraph messenger boy, an experience which he would later re-create in his fiction.
In 1926, after repeated expulsions from school for disciplinary reasons, Saroyan left Fresno without a high school diploma, first going to Los Angeles, where he served briefly in the California National Guard, then to San Francisco, where, after working as a telegraph operator, he eventually became manager at a branch office of the Postal Telegraph Company. By 1928, when he made his first trip to New York, Saroyan had made up his mind to make writing his career. Soon depressed, homesick, and discouraged, he returned to San Francisco, taking a series of brief jobs and spending most of his time learning his craft at the library and the typewriter.
Recognition and success first came to Saroyan in 1934, when Story magazine published two pieces that would also appear in his first collection of sketches, The Daring...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
In his 1966 critical study of William Saroyan, Howard Floan claims that the writer’s reputation would ultimately rest on the plays and fiction that he wrote prior to World War II. That view, issued when Saroyan was still actively writing, has since been validated.
The quintessential Saroyan pieces are unquestionably his early works. It is they that bear his peculiar stamp—the charm, goodwill, and delight in experimentation for which he will be remembered. Perhaps it was the war that robbed him of his youthful, wide-eyed acceptance and love of life that is the hallmark of his best work; perhaps it was the misfortune of success and his stormy marriage. In any case, from the war’s end to his death, except for brief flashes of his former brilliance, Saroyan never again achieved the high critical esteem he once enjoyed.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
William Saroyan was born in Fresno, California, in 1908. His father, who died when William was two, was a minister turned grape farmer; upon his death, young Saroyan spent seven years in an orphanage, after which his family was reunited. He worked at many odd jobs, including a stint as a telegraph operator, spending most of his time in Fresno and San Francisco. His first short stories began to appear in 1934 and found instant success. In his first year as a writer his work appeared in the O’Brien volume of The Best Short Stories, and he published what is still his best-received volume of short stories, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze. Thereafter he produced an amazingly prolific stream of short stories, plays, novels, and memoirs. Saroyan was twice married to Carol Marcus, with whom he had two children. In 1959, after his second divorce, he declared himself a tax exile and went to live in Europe. He returned in 1961 to teach at Purdue University and later returned to live in Fresno. He was actively writing right up to his death from cancer in 1981.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
So much of the work of William Stonehill Saroyan—especially his fiction—is drawn from the circumstances of his life that it has a biographical dimension. He was born in 1908, in Fresno, California, the city where he died on May 18, 1981. The child of Armenian immigrants, he faced his first hardship when, at his father’s death in 1911, he was placed for four years in the Fred Finch orphanage in Oakland. During these years, his mother worked in San Francisco as a maid, finally gathering the money to move back to a house in Fresno with her four children. Here Saroyan lived from age seven to seventeen, learning Armenian, acquiring an irreverence for the town’s chief social institutions—the church and the school—and working as a newspaper boy and as a telegraph messenger to help support the family.
At age fifteen, Saroyan left school permanently to work at his Uncle Aram’s vineyards. In 1926, he left Fresno, first to go to Los Angeles, then, after a brief time in the National Guard, to move to San Francisco, where he tried a number of jobs, eventually becoming at age nineteen the manager of a Postal Telegraph branch office. In 1928, determined to make his fortune as a writer, he made his first trip to New York. He returned to San Francisco the following year, somewhat discouraged by his lack of success. In the early 1930’s, however, he began to write story after story, culminating with his decision in January, 1934, to write one story a day for...
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The youngest of four children, and the only one of them born in America, William Saroyan’s earliest memory was of his poor and exiled Armenian family in Fresno. When he was three, his father died, and the children went to an orphanage. At eight, reunited with his family, Saroyan learned to read and write, and from the age of nine considered himself a writer. At twelve, he threw out all the rules because, he said, they did not include him. He rebelled at school and spent most of his time on the streets of Fresno’s Armenian district, later weaving its atmosphere and people into his writings.
In 1934, when he was twenty-six, Best American Short Stories reprinted his story “The Broken Wheel” from an Armenian newspaper. Then Story published “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze,” and Saroyan was suddenly the most sought-after writer in America. He began writing plays, including The Time of Your Life: A Comedy in Three Acts, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in drama in 1940. He refused the award.
He was associating with writers, actors, and the cream of New York society when he was drafted into the Army in October, 1942. He rebelled against every kind of regimentation in the Army and was humiliated by nine months of latrine duty. He wrote his first two novels by 1951, the year that he and a...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
William Saroyan was the fourth child of Armenian immigrants, Armenak and Takoohi Saroyan, who settled in Fresno, California. Three years after Saroyan’s birth, his father died, and Saroyan, along with his brother and sisters, was sent to an orphanage in Oakland, California. His mother, while working in San Francisco, tried to maintain the family, and by 1915, they were reunited in Fresno. Saroyan’s formal education ended before he completed high school, but by the age of twenty, he had committed himself to a career as a writer. In 1934, he won the O. Henry Award for his short story “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.” During the 1930’s, Saroyan traveled widely, published five novels, and worked briefly as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Between 1939 and 1942, Saroyan enjoyed a meteoric career on Broadway. In the early 1940’s, he produced and directed several of his own plays before entering the army in October, 1942. In 1943, he married Carol Marcus, whom he divorced in 1949, remarried in 1951, later divorced again, and by whom he had two children, Aram and Lucy. In the late 1940’s, he published several plays that were not produced on Broadway. After 1943, Saroyan wrote only one important work for the theater, The Cave Dwellers, although he continued to write prolifically in other genres.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
During the 1930’s and 1940’s, William Saroyan (suh-ROY-uhn) was one of the best-known, most critically admired, and most popular American writers. His affirmation of humane values in the face of adversity, oppression, and human error was a source of comfort to the reading public, and his audacious stylistic experiments won for him the praise of critics. Later, Saroyan continued to write as much and as well as he had before, but the world changed—and with it critical reception and public taste. After Saroyan’s death in 1981, however, audiences began to rediscover an author who was a unique blend of public figure, entertainer, and artist.
William Saroyan was born in Fresno, California, to Armenian immigrants; he was the only one of his siblings to have been born in the United States. Saroyan was proud of his Armenian heritage and rarely allowed his readers to forget his ancestry for more than a few pages. Early in life he experienced two devastating losses: His father, a preacher and writer, died of appendicitis when Saroyan was three, and his mother, unable to care for her children while she worked, put them in an orphanage, where Saroyan lived for the next five years, effectively losing his mother as well.
Because of these experiences, Saroyan was determined not to be defeated by life, and he threw himself into his work with intense...
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William Saroyan (who also wrote under the pseudonym Sirak Goryan) was the fourth child of Armenak and Takoohi Saroyan, who fled their native Armenia to escape ethnic persecution. They settled in Fresno, California, where Saroyan was born on August 31, 1908. Three years later, Armenak died. Impoverished, Takoohi sent the children to an orphanage, where they stayed for four years until she could provide for them.
Saroyan dropped out of high school and worked as a telegram messenger until 1926, when he moved to San Francisco to pursue a career in writing. After years of writing stories for magazines, Saroyan released his first collection in 1934 titled The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze. It was a bestseller, and the title story, which was first published in Story magazine in 1934, won the prestigious O. Henry Award. ‘‘Resurrection of a Life’’ first appeared in Story magazine in 1935, and was included in Saroyan’s second collection of fiction in 1936 titled Inhale & Exhale. A prolific writer, Saroyan had completed eight volumes of short fiction and five staged plays by 1941. He won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for The Time of Your Life but declined it on the grounds of commercialism. In 1943, Saroyan won an Academy Award for the screenplay The Human Comedy. He later adapted the screenplay as a novel.
In 1942, Saroyan was drafted to serve in World War II. He was stationed in New York...
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William Saroyan (also known as Sirak Goryan) was born in Fresno, California, on August 31, 1908. He was the fourth child of Armenak and Takoohi Saroyan, who fled their native Armenia to escape ethnic persecution. Armenak, a Presbyterian minister, died only a few years after Saroyan’s birth, leaving Takoohi, with her limited English and job skills, to support the family. She sent her children to an Oakland orphanage for four years, until she could provide for them.
While in school, Saroyan worked as a newspaper boy, and after he dropped out of high school, he worked various jobs, including a job as a telegram messenger. In 1926, Saroyan moved to San Francisco to pursue a career in writing. In 1934, he published his short-story collection The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze to rave reviews; by the late thirties, he had a national reputation as a fiction writer. Saroyan was a prolific writer and claimed to have written more than five hundred stories between 1935 and 1940.
Having been interested in drama from the time he was a child attending puppet shows, local theater, and movies, Saroyan decided, after his success in writing short stories, to try his hand at writing plays.
In 1939, he directed The Time of Your Life on Broadway to mediocre reviews and limited audiences. The play won the 1940 New York Drama Critics Circle Award and the 1940 Pulitzer Prize for drama, but Saroyan declined the Pulitzer because he...
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