Places Where I've Done Time Critical Context - Essay

William Saroyan

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Saroyan is so personal a writer and his own personality permeates his works so greatly that how one responds to any of his books depends on how one responds to Saroyan himself. Some readers will find Places Where I’ve Done Time boring, while others will think it whimsical and touching. There is, however, an approach that always helps to enliven Saroyan’s work.

The best way to experience any of Saroyan’s books is to read it aloud. Audiences who find the writer’s works cold on the page respond with interest when the same material is presented orally. This reaction is not surprising when one considers that Saroyan achieved his greatest fame as a writer of dialogue in the form of plays and was aware of the tradition of oral folk tales from his father’s native land of Armenia. One of Saroyan’s most successful books, My Name Is Aram (1940), another loosely organized series of vignettes, these about the writer’s childhood, features a number of eccentric uncles who rave about their past lives and current adventures. To understand and enjoy Places Where I’ve Done Time, the young adult reader may wish to imagine that a strange but funny uncle, William Saroyan, has come for a day to tell stories.