Herbert Gold - 1924 to 2023
Recently, the world lost one of the most underrated authors of the last century. Herbert Gold, Herb to his friends, passed away at the age of 99. Not only was Gold one of the finest California writers of his time, but also a dear friend to William Saroyan.
Herb Gold outlined meeting Saroyan in the introduction to the collection of Saroyan works He Flies through the Air with the Greatest of Ease. He details running into Saroyan for the first time at the San Francisco Museum of Art (today known as SFMoMA).
One afternoon I was brooding alone in the San Francisco Museum of Art, then still in the Veterans Memorial Building on Van Ness, when I heard a voice booming, saw that strong-featured, heavy Armenian face, now with a bristling mustache, lecturing to two children about the meaning of the paintings nearby, and incidentally also lecturing – hectoring, nagging, informing, bragging – about the meaning of life and their proper place in the world. The children were his son and daughter. The rich baritone was that of a Personage, a father, a man speaking from the depths of imperativeness and soul.
“Mr. Saroyan, I presume.”
From there, the two became friends. The two men had a lot in common; they both drank, they both enjoyed the company of women, they were both divorced, and they were both writers, though Saroyan was a widely-known giant of American Letters and Gold, while respected by his peers, never managed to achieve that sort of success. The pair enjoyed the San Francisco of the 1960s together, and Gold even visited Saroyan in Fresno and Paris. Gold details a visit to Saroyan in Fresno when he brought his nine-year-old Ari, now a comedian and filmmaker, with him. The two remained friends until the end of Saroyan’s life, and Gold continued writing about Saroyan for decades following his passing.
Herb Gold wrote more than twenty novels and four collections of stories and essays. He was active at the same time as the Beats, and in physical proximity to many of them, first in New York and later in San Francisco. Though he was working at the same time, and his writing featured similar themes, he never felt he was a part of the movement, though he was referred to as a “Beat-adjacent novelist.”
Herbert Gold passed away on November 19th, 2023 at the age of 99. He was survived by his five children. His final book, a collection of poetry titled Fathers Verses Sons, will be released on March 9th, 2024, on what would have been his 100th birthday.