Forever Saroyan Presents - Three Times Three: The Man with the Heart in the Highlands

Welcome to Forever Saroyan Presents - Three Times Three with your host, Christopher J. Garcia.

3 times 3 coverToday we're going to look at a story that is one of William Saroyan's most famous, most beloved, and by far, most adapted: “The Man with the Heart in the Highlands.” It first appeared in Three Times Three, but was reprinted several times, not only in Saroyan’s own collections, but in collections of great American literature, and even textbooks. It's been adapted widely, not only in English, but in languages such as Dutch, Danish and Czech. It's a popular adaptation target particularly for Eastern European film and television producers. One of the reasons may have to do with the universality of the story and its deep connection with a traditional story that is known worldwide. But first, let's look at the introduction.

The introduction opens with the phrase, “this one was written on Saturday, September 14 1935. Two days before I went to the hospital in a cab and got operated on and through some miracle didn't die.”

He goes on to tell the story of a bout of appendicitis, when an emergency surgery removed his appendix. This must have been a massively traumatic experience for Saroyan, whose own father had died when he was very young due to a burst appendix. He talks about the experience in very, very dark terms,

“And then greater pain than ever and a roar ,and then a lessening of the pain, and a pathetic whisper, My God, my God. In the morning, I knew it was not ended. I knew it was still one way or another, I would either live or die. I bathed and shaved and dressed and decided to go for a walk. Only I couldn't walk. I got into a cab and went to the hospital. 20 or 30 minutes after I reached the hospital, the doctor operated on me, it was a very bad appendix, very swollen, very close to bursting. And when I awakened from the ether sleep, the doctor said very casually, If you had gotten here 10 minutes later, it would have bursted, and that would have been too bad.”

This moment obviously stood out to Saroyan enough so that the introduction to the story doesn't actually deal with the story at all but with the circumstances of the days following its creation. Perhaps it's merely the time aspect where he can attach so near a time as to the event with the creation of this story. It does, however, end with a slight hint as to the tone of the story itself.

I was very glad I hadn't died. Very grateful to my God. I said many thanks. I've got a lot of writing to do. I'll take it if I've got to take it. And I'll take it with a laugh, but many thanks just the same. I'd like to live to be 100. If it's all the same to you, I'd like to stay in this world until they figure out a way to give everybody enough to be able to be easygoing about everything. I'd like to stay in this world until they figure out some way to let everybody be a millionaire.

Perhaps that statement more than anything expresses the idea of Saroyanesque writing. This idea of achieving a lighter, easier life, as he said in the preface to the entire collection. He's not interested in work, but in play. And here it seems to be a declaration that play or at least ease should be the goal of society.

Covers136“The Man with the Heart in the Highlands” centers around Johnny, his father, a roving musician called Jasper McGregor and Mr. Kosack, a local store owner. Each of these four characters plays a different role, and in many ways they represent four archetypes of Saroyan’s writing. Johnny is a young boy, perhaps modeled on Saroyan himself. He's inquisitive, but also not entirely trusting. This is in contrast to how children are often shown as exceptionally open and trusting. But here, Johnny is actually a bit weary of trusting Jasper McGregor. When he encountered him playing his bugle, coming towards his house, he initially denies him water, but when his father interjects, he invites Mr. McGregor into the house.

And Saroyan goes from there through an often read about children. One of his more famous stories, “The Parsley Garden” has a character who is very similar to Johnny in temperament, but perhaps slightly more accepting of his position, and decidedly less accepting of the world around him. You can also see this in some of the younger characters in ways that aren't seen by society at that point to be completely open and acceptable. I'm thinking of characters in The Human Comedy, as well as My Name is Aram. If Johnny is William Saroyan as a child, Johnny's father is William Saroyan at the period he wrote this story. Well, perhaps, a period slightly before when he was still a writer but struggling to find publication.

Johnny's father is a poet but he is unpublished, thus, there is no income. This is a fascinating idea, Because the main goal of a poet is to express his idea and view of the world, but that also requires publication. Some would say he's loafing and certainly Saroyan himself was accused of this in his early days before he found significant publication in 1928. Johnny's father is much more accepting of Mr. McGregor, possibly because of their connection through the arts, but also possibly because of their need of external assistance. Johnny's father cannot provide for the family but relies on Johnny to actually gain food and favor from Mr. Kosack. A bit more on that in a minute.

Mr. McGregor is a fascinatingly beautiful character who falls into a number of different ideas that are traditional in stories, particularly in Eastern Europe. He is a wandering troubadour of a form, who wanders around playing his bugle, entertaining those he comes across. He says his heart is in the Highlands of Scotland, though we're not entirely certain if he is Scottish, or it's merely an affectation. That said he's apparently a very good bugler, and this performance allows him to draw people to him. Though initially, Johnny, as I mentioned, was leary and not exactly accepting. Once he actually turns on his special ability, he draws all to him, and eventually it turns out that he was in use with an old folks home to do the Old Folks’ Follies of 1914.

A character who is highly important to both the story and to a larger meaning with Saroyan’s writing is Mr. Kosack, Mr. Kosack, an Eastern European (perhaps Polish, Russian, or Czechoslovakian) owns a local store. He's been offering credit to Johnny and Johnny's father, but he's never been paid back. Thus, he is exceptionally hesitant to offer credit again when Johnny goes to ask so we can get a loaf of bread, a pound of cheese, and a bottle of beer. The owner of a store being an immigrant is not at all unknown, though it's unclear whether or not Johnny and his father are of a similar immigrant population.

In the early part of the 20th century. Often, communities such as Slavs, Russians, Armenians, Germans, Poles, and others would live in similar areas. But we're never indicated whether or not Johnny and his father are of an immigrant population. In fact, in a form, we're told they are not. As Johnny attempts to convince Mr. Kosack to give him credit, we have this somewhat problematic passage.

How much money you got, said Mr. Kosack.

It ain't a question of money, Mr. Kosack, I said, I'm talking about being in China and needing the help of the white race.

I don't know nothing about nothing, said Mr. Kosack.

How would you feel in China that way? I said.

I don't know. Mr. Kosack said, what would I be doing in China?

Well, I said you'd be visiting there and you'd be hungry and not a friend in the world. You wouldn't expect a good Christian to turn you away even without a pound of rice, would you Mr. Kosack?

I guess not Mr. Kosack, but you ain't in China, Johnny and neither is your Pa.

This is a really interesting passage, because at this time you would rarely see Anglo-Saxon populations living in areas that were typically immigrant population centers. Fresno’s Armeniatown wasn't exactly as much of a melting pot as we might think. In a way, ghettoization with strict lines as to who could live where, made that less likely. But Mr. Kosack is higher in the power structure. He is the owner of a shop, who, for Johnny and his father to be able to eat, has to extend credit to them. This dynamic may actually speak to one of Saroyan's bigger ideas, that distinctions between race and ethnicity and national origin are less stark than those between class.

 Eventually, Johnny convinces Mr. Kosack to give them cheese and bread, but not the beer, by appealing to his family, bringing up how interested he is in their well-being, and how wonderful they are. This is an effective technique that anyone who has had to ask for credit will tell you is usually highly effective.

Covers046One interesting aspect of the story and perhaps its widescale international success is its connection to a classic story called Stone Soup, sometimes also called Button Soup. The idea is relatively simple - an outsider comes into a small town, and as initially rejected. He's looking for food, but when he finds none, he mentions that he could make a wonderful soup out of a stone. The town is fascinated by this claim, and thus, he asks for a pot and some water. They give him the pot and the water and he puts this stone in, stirs it tastes it and says, ‘Oh, this is very good. It would be better if we had some …’ salt, some pepper, a chicken, and on and on and on. Each time he says this would be better with some addition, a local claims, ‘oh, I have some’ and goes and gets it and puts it in the stew. Thus at the end, a large stew is gathered, not from anything that the stranger brought, but from the generosity of the others wishing to participate in the special moment. When Mr. McGregor begins to play the bugle, after having some bread and cheese, people come from around the neighborhood, and he asked him to bring some small bit with them at a massive party breaks out. This is a clear analogue to stone soup, a story that Saroyan could not have been unfamiliar with at that time. The difference here is not only the updating in time, but this idea that it is the performance of Jasper McGregor that brings the people in instead of his claiming that he can make a stone soup. It is still this idea of the gathering of the commons that makes this possible. In essence, he crowdsourced his feast.

Cover418One of the reasons why this story stands out so firmly from Saroyan’s oeuvre is that it was the source for his first Broadway play, My Heart’s in the Highlands. The play was pretty darn successful, including getting votes for the New York Drama Circle’s Critics Award, which he would win the following year for The Time of Your Life. In 1939, there was a massive split of votes and none was awarded. It was also considered for the Pulitzer though did not win.

Television productions latched on to it relatively quickly, largely because its compact nature made it possible to do it with few actors and with a small set. Also, its runtime could be clipped down to as little as 15 minutes, thus making it great for television in the 1950s.

All in all, this story fits in as one of the most important stories of Saroyan’s career. Its perfection in writing, as well as its universal themes, make it easily adaptable, and one of the prime examples of Saroyanesque writing from his early period. This led to an outpour of interest in the work and is a fine introduction to the stories of this book, largely because of those themes. It certainly sets the table for an exciting compilation.

Thanks for listening to Forever Saroyan presents Three Times Three. Forever Saroyan LLC was founded by Charles Janigian. This episode was produced, performed and edited by Christopher J. Garcia. Forever Saroyan’s archivists are Chris Garcia and Dori Meier

Stay tuned for our next episode - "The Question"


Transcription by Otter.Ai

Hank Saroyan - 1947 to 2022

IMG 2157Hank Saroyan, Emmy Award-winning writer, director, and producer, passed away at the age of 75. A nephew of William Saroyan, Hank worked in television for fifty years in many capacities, from composing music to serving as the head of production to voice acting. He is survived by a son and two grandchildren.

Saroyan worked in animation first, serving as a story-editor for Scooby-Doo Where Are You? Not long after, he ended up catching the attention of legendary American Bandstand creator and host, Dick Clark. After producing an episode of Bandstand, he worked on the television special Roberta Flack – The First Time, which Clark executive produced. Clark then brought him on board to write and produce an episode of The Wide World of Mystery called "The Werewolf of Woodstock," directed by television legend John Moffitt. This would be Saroyan’s first television writing credit.

Saroyan expanded his repertoire by entering into voice acting, including providing background voices for Scooby-Doo, Monchhichis, and Trollkiins. He also branched out into serving as a casting director and music supervisor. This would lead to what many point to as his longest-lasting cultural impact. Saroyan had landed the role of Vice-President of Network Programming for Marvel, the television arm of the major comic book company. After a meeting with Jim Henson Productions, Henson chose Marvel to work on their newest project, Muppet Babies, partly because of the impression Saroyan had made. 

"Purportedly based upon the personalities present in that meeting, he chose Marvel. We had what seemed to be instant rapport both personally and creatively." Saroyan later noted.

The show was based on a scene in The Muppets Take Manhattan, which included the Muppets as young children. The characters were the stars of The Muppet Show, itself a series that used characters Henson had been presenting on shows like Saturday Night Live and Sesame Street and the series of films that emerged from them. The animated series included the voices of Howie Mandel (St. Elsewhere), Frank Welker (Scooby-Doo), and Barbara Billingsley (Leave it to Beaver). Muppet Babies, true to its name, followed the exploits of iconic Muppet characters like Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Animal, Gonzo, and Dr. Bunson Honeydew.

muppet babies rocket to the stars lgOne of the most memorable parts of the show was the theme song, with its cheery 1950s-inspired tune composed by Rob Walsh, with Hank Saroyan providing the lyrics. The song was used when the franchise was re-launched in 2018. Saroyan wrote lyrics for many of the other songs used on the show as well. Saroyan noted on his website years later, “Muppet Babies remains my favorite animated show experience and the longest in duration.”

Much of the team also worked on Little Muppet Monsters including nearly all the primary vocal cast. In an interesting familial connection, in the music department of Little Muppet Monsters was Christopher Cerf, who had worked on many projects across the entirety of the Henson company. Cerf is the son of Bennett Cerf, who had been a friend of William Saroyan and had published much of his early work as the founder of Random House. The show only had one season.

By the end of the 1980s, Saroyan found himself producing and writing for various animation specials, including television adaptations of classic comic strip characters Blondie & Dagwood, Hagar the Horrible, and Beetle Bailey. He produced, provided voice direction, and did some voice acting on the series Rude Dog and the Dweebs.

Saroyan’s first directorial work may have been his most memorable. Taking his uncle William’s classic story, “The Parsley Garden”, Hank Saroyan adapted the story for an ABC Weekend Special. Featuring major film and television stars Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Bosley, James Earl Jones, and Christopher Miranda, the episode took one of Saroyan’s most beloved stories and gave it an adaptation that was at once faithful to the original in tone and meaning, but formed into the modern television movie format.

UntitlededtyjkReviews of the program were very positive. Most reviews called the episode ‘moving’ and noted the acting of Miranda. The Pantograph said, “’The Parsley Garden’…adapted from a William Saroyan short story, is a polished gem, a superb little morality play that’s as inspiring as it is simple.” Bill Harris of Showtime stated, “Hank Saroyan’s eye and heart are easily the equal of his famous uncle, as he brings “The Parsley Garden” to film with the same sure and tender touch William Saroyan used to put to paper.”

Some have pointed to the work as one of the best of the youth-oriented specials that ABC had specialized in since the early 1970s. Saroyan won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in a Children's Special. The special was also nominated for Children's Live-Action Special, and Miranda was also nominated for his starring role, but only won for Saroyan’s direction.

File0002Saroyan worked on many programs focusing on music and performance. He produced Dick Clark's Rock 'n Roll Years series of half-hour specials for ABC that included live and recorded performances of rock 'n roll pioneers like Chubby Checker, Jackie Wilson, The Shirelles, and Dion. He served as producer on Chicago, in the Rockies, a hybrid on-location and in-studio program featuring the Chicago, one of the best-selling rock bands of the time. He worked on ABC's In Concert series of rock concerts featuring many of the most important performers in music at the time. As a way to introduce young people to classical music, Saroyan produced the New York Philharmonic Young People Concerts working with host Beverly Sills. 

HanksaroyanIn 1998, he became involved with the Prism Awards. Given for the accurate depiction of drug, alcohol and tobacco use and addiction in entertainment, Saroyan would help elevate the status of the awards, and especially their production values, bringing them to national television in 2000. USA Today said of the Saroyan-produced award show, “The Prism Awards… has as much heart in five minutes as the Oscars have had in 50 years.”

Saroyan leaves behind a legacy of incredible work across decades that saw more change in the media landscape than any other. His dedication to animation, youth-centered television, and the incredible amount of quality work he left behind are testaments to a lifetime of remarkable creative output.

Forever Saroyan Presents - Three Times Three: Introduction

ThreeTimesThree bibTranscript prepared using Otter.Ai


Welcome to Forever Saroyan Presents: Three Times Three, with your host, Christopher J. Garcia.

In this 10-part series, we'll look at Three Times Three, William Saroyan's 1936 collection published by the Conference Press in 10 episodes, nine on the individual stories and their introductions, and this episode which will look at the book Introduction and preface, as well as how the book came to be.

To really understand Three Times Three, we have to understand where William Saroyan was in 1936, and that also requires us to look at where literature was. Let's go back to roughly 1900.

The turn of the 20th century led to growth in magazine publishing. While the short form had been popular dating back to the earliest days of American writing, by 1900, magazine publication had become much cheaper. New types of paper, printing, as well as a large number of people trained to do so, meant that publication was less expensive, meaning that smaller magazines and smaller teams could actually publish. This led to the rise of the 'littles' magazines that were usually run by one or two people on very low budgets. Since they had low budgets, they often had to rely on new and young writers. This led to some of the earliest writings of some of the major important figures in American modernism, including Hemingway and Faulkner, both published in the Double Dealer.

American Mercury001Modernism had flashed across first England, later, France, Russia and elsewhere, but eventually came to the US with authors such as Carl Sandburg, Gertrude Stein, Hemingway Faulkner, and of course, Sherwood Anderson, a major influence on Saroyan. The rise of magazines that were coming out at that time, both 'littles' and more traditional happened in several different phases. Literary magazines such as The Criterion and Reader's Digest gave more sources and sites for authors to publish. The American Mercury, The Atlantic, Harper's, and especially The New Yorker opened up the world to the short story which was a very popular form. The New Yorker in particular influenced a generation of magazines focused on providing a view of a specific city or region. Magazines such as Inland Topics, out of Chicago, and The Coast where Saroyan published several pieces, attempted to bring The New Yorker concept to new areas and give a regional flavor to their publication. All this meant that there were more places to publish short fiction, and when you have a greater abundance of places where things can be published, you find new writers who need to fill those gaps.

William Saroyan began writing in the 1920s, including attempting to publish a novel-length work called Follow, which wouldn't be published until almost 80 years later. He found his first publications in 1928, starting with The San Franciscan, another regional magazine based in San Francisco. He later appeared in boulevardier and then most famously, in Overland Magazine, overland had been founded by Bret Harte in the 1870s and published many of the most important writers of California. Saroyan’s most important work of that period was “Portrait of a Bum” which appeared in Overland. This established him as a rising literary star and allowed him to get more work published in more publications.

By the early 1930s, he was regularly publishing in some of the top and midstream magazines. The publication of “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze” in Story Magazine, led to the most important breakthrough of his career, the publication of his first collection, The Daring You Man on the Flying Trapeze and other stories in 1934. This collection was an absolute eye-opener as to what Saroyan would be doing with the rest of his career. Here you can see the early form of what it's called ‘Saroyanesque’ writing. It is writing that is both ultimately hopeful, with a positive view of humanity at the same time as being rather cynical about the role of society. This fit in beautifully with the ideas of modernism while at the same time going against the rather dour view that most people had about modernism at the time. This was followed by his second collection, Inhale and Exhale, published by Random House. This massive collection published many of the most important works of Saroyan’s career and certainly established him as one of the biggest stars in writing. This collection was so large when it was published by Faber and Faber in the UK, it had to be broken into two parts.

When 1936 came, Saroyan was a big enough star that he could work in Hollywood, and he went to write for the pictures. It was in 1936 when the first important step towards Three Times Three would take place.

There are two origin stories that are out there about the Conference Press. This is the one that is published in Three Times Three, written by William Saroyan –

“Four young men, Edward Babigian, a countryman of mine, Gilbert Harrison, William Okie and Howie Levy from the University of California, Los Angeles came to visit me one afternoon in November 1936, at Ben Schulberg’s, in Hollywood, where I was writing stuff for possible use in motion pictures. And one of them wondered what if American publishers suddenly decided not to publish my stuff. I said, I would bust out laughing and publish the stuff myself. I said, There's nothing magic about writers or writing and nothing magic about anything else, including publishers and publishing. All you do no matter what you do, is do what you figure you want to do. This is a big world, and more than half of everything is phony. Who the hell are publishers? I'm a publisher myself. I'm in the mood. The students thought about this for a moment. Then one of them said, How about letting us publish something of yours? And I said, Fine. I'll give you a story tonight. We hemmed and hawed little, and well, we were hemming and hawing. My subconscious mind, which is one of the swiftest moving subconscious minds of our time, came to the conclusion that this was an excellent thing to do. First, we thought of printing only one piece, I kept thinking of the unpublished pieces I had lying around. Then we decided to print one fairly long piece and several shorter pieces, I thought it'd be a pity to leave out such and such a piece and then I remembered another piece and thought it would be a pity to leave it out. In less than six minutes, we decided to publish a book, we selected a color, black, for the cover. We founded a company, Conference Press, and we decided on a publication date - December 10, 1936. On and off, I wondered if I shouldn't win a prize with a book the William Saroyan Memorial Prize for 1936 $50,000, perhaps $500,000. Just for color, red. Several days later, my associates had stationery printed and wrote their fall catalog, and I found a title for the book, Three Times Three, and as much as there would probably be nine pieces in the book. Three times three is nine.”

This almost magical story is perhaps a slightly more colorful version of what was published in a 1940 prospectus from the Conference Press.

“Once upon a time there were three young college boys who liked the way Williams Saroyan wrote. One day they left the campus of the University of California at Los Angeles and drove across town to a Hollywood studio, where Saroyan was writing for pictures. Saroyan was very cordial, and for half an hour, the four young men, Saroyan was but a couple of years older than his admirers, talked about William Saroyan and writing in general and the prospects for the UCLA football team. Soon the talk switched to publishing and before anyone was quite sure what had happened, the three college boys had formed a publishing house and Saroyan had agreed to give them enough stories to make a book. The Conference Press was born and Saroyan, bored with Hollywood, was getting to have another book published. A few hectic weeks followed Saroyan as the first of four conference press vice presidents, there was no president, helped read galley proofs in the print shop, ate ice cream pie at the nearby drugstore, and sing baritone and the quartet of embryonic publishers that drove in the early mornings. The three college boy publishers starting from scratch with absolutely no knowledge of the publishing business soon found themselves learning by the fast and sometimes bitter method of firsthand first-time experience. That first meeting in Saroyan's office was on November 12. On December 12, the book was in bookstores ready to be sold. The first book was really a collegiate Lark. Now we are out of college working on our second book and planning the ones to follow.”

The basic elements of both stories are the same. The minor exceptions, of course, being Babigian completely excluded from the later note, as well as some of the back and forth that seemed to have happened with the group. Certainly, Saroyan was presented as a major part of the company, although it does not seem to have been very active after this first initial work of Three Times Three. For certain, one interesting aspect is that the 1940 prospectus, four years after the release of Three Times Three, mentioned their second book, which would be the Gertrude Stein book that they published. Four years without publishing anything isn't a great rate for most groups, but these three college boys were trying to get through In college.

The introduction largely deals with the book itself, and the contents of the book are highly important. One note is about what he wanted to include a play called Subway Circus. From the introduction -  

Harrison said that's what we'd like to talk to you about. We'd prefer if you leave Subway Circus, too. You mean the play or the title, I said. The play, he said. It's a great play, I said, it's got to be in the book. I don't think it's great. He said, I think it's lousy. Everyone who's read it thinks it's lousy, I said, Are you sure? Yes. He said, I always thought it was a great play. I said, maybe it is he said, I think it's lousy. The only part in it that's great is the part where the society lady says Naples stinks. I felt pretty badly about subway circuits not being a great play to anyone who read it except me. But I am willing to be mistaken. Nevertheless, as second vice president of the firm, I demanded a vote. I voted yes. Gil Harrison voted no. Bill Okie voted no. Hal Levy said he hadn't read the play. That's all right. I said, take my word for it, It's great, vote yes. He wouldn't do it. He's only fourth vice president, but he said he wouldn't vote yes until he had read the play. I asked George Auerbach if he wouldn't vote yes. He wasn't a member of the firm and he hadn't read the play, but I thought he might say yes anyhow. The other vice presidents of the firm said that George couldn't vote because he wasn't a member of the firm. So the play was voted out of the book. Levy then mentioned that there would be a second Conference Press book entitled The Collected Worst Works of William Saroyan, which would include Subway Circus.

The introduction was about the creation of the book itself, while the preface deals with Saroyan expressing what it means to be William Saroyan. And at this point, Saroyan may see himself as more of a writer that has a person. Some have even gone so far as to think that perhaps he saw himself as one of his own characters. Strikingly postmodern if you think about it.

The goal of this preface is immediately stated by Saroyan -

In this little preface, all I want to do is explain everything to everybody.

And in a way he does.

He certainly goes into the aspects of how he writes, without going into the technicalities of how he writes, partly because he rejects the technical aspects of his writing, in order to view it as a form of play.

I have never enjoyed working, I do not believe in work. I believe no man in the world enjoys working. I believe no man in the world should work. To work meaning to do something you do not want to do. This reason, the organizing of workers internationally strikes me as being one of the most pathetic tragic and comic event in the history of man. The activities of man on Earth by nature were meant to be activities of play, of ease and improvisation. Geniuses play and man's capacity for achieving genius is infinite, and man may achieve genius only through play. To me, the activity of writing is, has been and always will be the most efficient means by which to be able to laugh at about anything.

This statement stands in stark contrast to how writing has been viewed traditionally, and even today, you're seeing writers whose writing about their works, particularly blogging, podcasting and so forth, reflects the idea that writing as a job is equal in measures to working any job and that idea is somewhat controversial still, because most writers don't spend all day lifting logs for example, but it does come across that Saroyan was more interested in writing as a way of enjoying himself on the page. This comes across very, very obviously, in most of his writing, particularly in his early writings.

Saroyan was always looking for a way to express what he felt or he saw in the world through his stories. Often this took the place of first-person narratives. This also led to one of the often asked questions about Ryan's work. Did this really happen? Is the main character William Saroyan? These questions are far more difficult to answer. In many cases, yes, the character is 100% William Saroyan, even stated to be in the stories. Other times it's a gray area. It's fair to say that many of the things he wrote happened to him in a way. The comparison between the two origin stories for the book sort of showing how Saroyan might go into slightly more narrative focus ways of telling a story that actually happened. He addresses this also in the preface.

I'm aware as anyone else in the world that what we have here is not exactly the short story, but something else. I knew this when I was writing these pieces, and I wrote them, I believed it might be all right. And if it were not all right, it would be all right. Anyway. I know also, that many of the pieces in this books are about myself, I wrote every piece in this book, and was there every minute of that time, I regret that unlike many other American producers of commodities, I cannot guarantee my product. I can guarantee, however, that what we have here is loosely speaking a book, and that the pieces of this book are written in the American version of the English tongue, I cannot guarantee that this book will not bore anybody.

SubwayCircus001That comes in a very interesting point for William Saroyan. At this point, he was still an immediately rising star who'd been in the business for roughly eight years, but really only had three years of significant success. His view is to attempt to bring voice to an idea of what he saw as the common man, who in this case was himself, to the rest of the world, always hoping to find a new way to latch on to the view of the reader, but he also realized, as with his view of Subway Circus and how it was taken by the rest of the Conference Press vice presidents, that his view was not necessarily universal. This strange back and forth between his understanding that he is writing work that is applicable to everyone in the world, while at the same time being separated from it by his own view of his own work, writes a tension that shows throughout his later writing, when he was doing memoir.

By the end of his career, Saroyan would become one of the most famous Americans, period. His writing evolved like all writing does, and at times some would say he evolved as well, but here in Three Times Three, we see a selection of stories that express a very particular time in his career. And while the stories are varied and apply varying degrees of Saroyanesque writing, they all express something that is very clear -he has much more to say, including the individual stories included.

As we go through these nine stories and their introductions, we'll be looking at how those stories tied to later stories in his career, how the moment in time that they're capturing capture something larger than the story itself, and most especially the techniques that William storing employees that at first may seem rather simple, but when viewed fully, are incredibly deep, complex and surprising.

Forever Saroyan Presents Three Times Three is written, performed and produced by Christopher J. Garcia. Forever Saroyan, LLC, was founded by Charles Janigian.  Archivists are Chris Garcia, and Dori Myer. You can find more information on William Saroyan and the Saroyan-Minasian families on the Forever Saroyan website

Stay tuned for the next episode, The Man with the Heart in the Highlands. Thanks for listening.


Chris Garcia, Archivist - Forever Saroyan, LLC, September 13th, 2022, San Jose, CA

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