WILLIAM SAROYAN Exhibit to Open at Arion Press Gallery in January, 2023

bg 01San Francisco, CA — WILLIAM SAROYAN was a legend of 20th century letters. Writing about the immigrant experience and the human condition, Saroyan’s prose is just as accessible and relevant today as it was when he wrote it in the mid-20th century. Born in 1908 to Armenian immigrant parents, Saroyan would win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play The Time of Your Life, the Academy Award for Best Story for The Human Comedy, and would influence authors as varied as Jack Kerouac, Stephen Fry, Kurt Vonnegut, and Peter Coyote.

Forever Saroyan, LLC, is proud to announce the opening of WILLIAM SAROYAN, a major exhibition of Saroyan’s artifacts, art, and words at the Arion Press Gallery, the first exhibition of Saroyan paintings and artifacts in San Francisco this decade. The exhibition traces his life story from his birth in Fresno, through his early career as a writer in San Francisco, his relationship with Grabhorn Press, his rise in the literary world, his contemporaries and family, as well as his most important literary and theatrical works. The exhibition will also feature a rare look at the art and writing of Saroyan’s cousin, Archie Minasian, through his books, poems, and watercolors.

Soroyan Science LowResSaroyan created art throughout his life, beginning with geometric pencil drawings in the late 1920s and early 30s. These works, often drawn on stationary, reflect the Art Deco architecture and design of the time. By the late 1950s, he was creating watercolors and ink drawings. The forms he painted, line-based with an expressive color palette, were Abstract Expressionist in nature, exploring form and color theory while still maintaining a constrained presentation that spoke of his earlier works. Some scholars point to his friendship with Manuel Tolegian, former travel partner of Jackson Pollock, as being key in helping define new styles in expressive painting.

The exhibit opens on January 8th, 2023, with an official opening celebration on January 15th , and runs through February 24th. The Arion Press Gallery is located at 1802 Hays Street, The Presidio, San Francisco, CA 94129, United States. Forever Saroyan will be providing guided tours every other Thursday starting on January 12th, 2023, and can also arrange special tours. Please contact Christopher Garcia () for more information.

Forever Saroyan, LLC, was founded by Saroyan’s cousin, Charles Janigian, to preserve, protect, and honor the memories and legacies of the Saroyan and Minasian families. Although this is a privately funded family archive, we make our unique materials available to the world via our website, www.foreversaroyan.com and local exhibits, so that the next generation of scholars and enthusiasts will study and write about Saroyan and his family. WILLIAM SAROYAN was curated by Dori Myer and Chris Garcia. For further information or photos, please contact Chris Garcia –

Forever Saroyan Presents - Public Speech

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

ThreeTImes editedHello, and welcome to another episode of Forever Saroyan Presents: Three Times Three. This time we're looking at the story, “Public Speech”. I think Saroyan sums it up pretty perfectly with the opening lines of his introduction.

“This one's goofy, but even so, some readers may get a kick out of it.”

The story is actually a little bit difficult to sum up. It's a speech, at least that's a form of it, but it's not a typical speech as we might think of it. It's both a character study and, in a strange way, a commentary on everything from Communism, to socialism, to art, to politics, to the progression of life itself. And it features both the text of the speech and then in parentheses, comments of what's going on inside the world in which a speech is being given.

The opening of the actual piece goes like this – “Ladies, gentlemen, patriots lovers of opera, enemies of Russia, soldiers, workers, fascist Presbyterians, Rotarians, Greeks, Jews, orders farmers, mechanics, gamblers, sons of America, Daughters of the revolution rebels, sailors, taxpayers, voters, students, Catholics, worshipers of Stalin, black shirts, Mr. President, Mrs. President brown shirts, doctors, nurses, poets, writers, composers and critics of life and literature (swig of whiskey.)

From that very opening, you can tell that Saroyan is writing for this universal person. In essence, he's doing what he does. Often, he is trying to be as egalitarian as possible in his writing. Saroyan often mentioned groups that would be typically diametrically opposed to one another, as a way of expressing his neutrality, or at least his view of inclusion for the time. The addition of Mr. President, Mrs. President, is an interesting note, but strange.

A majority of the speech is about Mark Lazansky And he's 20. Born in Russia, Jewish, and a strapping young lad. What's strange is that as the piece goes on, the thread gets lost, and it's on purpose. That's what's so fascinating about it. It is something of a ramble, but at the same time, it is pointedly making use of a number of techniques that Saroyan often used, like the parentheticals to indicate action such as swig of whiskey which is repeated throughout this and may also explain some of the rambling nature of it the giving a full backstory of a character within almost snapshots and vignettes. For example, when talking about the birth of Mark Lazansky, the speaker says the following – “brothers and sisters, the day of his birth was a cold day in New York, snow everywhere. The little flat on Mulberry Street was dark and frozen like the mind of a homeless man walking the streets through a winter night, black and cold. Poor mama Lazansky groaned in her bed frightened and sorry she had ever come to America. 1000 agonies in Moscow would have been better.”

That's where it gets interesting, because at this point, it is about the character, but then it moves on. It talks about the American Republic and the experiment. It talks about using characters such as John D. Rockefeller, JP Morgan, Andrew Mellon, the richest people in America at that point, and they play characters. In this case, he casts them as thieves, these three tycoons, and it's funny because they were sort of seen as robber barons at the time, but they're also some of the most respected men in America simultaneously. They were often the target of Young Socialists and Communists who were making statements about how American inequality had grown greatly in the 1920s and 30s. Throughout this the story is full of repetition and lists, which is something that occasionally Saroyan is known for. He also continually refers to the audience as brothers or brethren, as if he's addressing a group that he is a part of, his often referenced ‘brotherhood of man.’ When he made that initial mention of all the people he was speaking to, there's no single group they would all really be members of, except for perhaps America as a whole. But at the same time, it is definitely bifurcated. He is in many ways railing against the rich, the pompous. In a way he's also going against organizations in general. There's a wonderful passage that I think is really just brilliantly done.

“I tell you, my friends, there is no hope for the living None. None whatsoever, though Catholic children pray from morning till night, and novelists fill the world with book after book and painters paint and actors act and preachers preach and so help me if you think the world is not ending if you think the very sky is not falling if you think Chaos is not coming comrades. You are Gaga Your eyes are blind your ears are deaf. Your nose is clogged your limbs frozen in your hearts (applause) professors, educators plumbers and pipefitters newsboys beggars and Arthur Brisbane, now is the time to rise and laugh. I said, Rise and laugh, my friends, I said. (no laughter, angry.)”

August6thPresentation014What's brilliant about that specific segment is again, he's listing different groups, different activities, and treating them all with equal men. The prayers of the Catholic, the writer writing, the painter painting, the preacher preaching, all of them in the same context. What's funny is we see an echo of one of his stories that he had done in Inhale and Exhale, which was reprinted in the Gay and Melancholy Flux as “Ben,” a story called “666”, in which he moves it directly to the listener and uses a very familiar form.

“You are 12 years old and alive, follow closely, the long day ended and you're still in Italy living in Rome 20 years old, came Mussolini with the last mouth, came oratory, came the salute, came the word fascism, you agree to live in Italy, because you were born in Italy and like climate, and because you have Italian memories, lo and behold, you're a fascist but not actually. And not with a bang, bang, the change is statistical and not organic. Your name is Thomas Mazza…”

The repeated use of ‘came’ – ‘came Mussolini, came fascism,’ so on and so forth, very much echoed what the majority of banners. In “666” Saroyan uses the to indicate the importance of connection to time, as he adds a thing and then said ‘came’ then ‘came’ and then ‘came,’ what he is really saying is this happened. This was a moment, this was a noted event that must be paid attention to. Consequently, when he says you, when he addresses a specific idea of a being, he is using it, of course, universally, but at the same time, he is saying that any specificity that we apply to any one person in this world is applicable to everybody. Its grain, how this flows out from there, and again, echoing the way that “Ben” and “666” tell the story of the passage of history and its impact on the individuals who are there now. We see that same technique in a slightly different way.

“Read your evening newspaper, yawn and speak of the news toots. I see by the paper where 5000 Ethiopians were killed today by a bunch of Italian baby them. Foreigners are Gaga, the scene changes, the Americans are coming, the Mexicans are coming, the South Americans are coming. And here comes the British with a bang bang.”

Again, it is these references that show import. And here talking about the colonization aspects of the world about how scarcity and need has always driven the idea of conquest. That's here in many, many ways. I think that the most confusing part of this is that Saroyan seems to want an end to human suffering in many different ways, most notably financially, of course, in the introduction, talking about how he wanted to live long enough to be to see everyone be a millionaire to be made comfortable, but he often thumbed his nose at ideas of communism, socialism, and religion very much. So he speaks against the rich. But at the same time, he clearly admires their lifestyle, not only because of how he personally lives, but how he is constantly noting their most important figures. In essence, it seems he is aspiring to be a rich man, but doesn't like the people who already live in that neighborhood.

This push-pull attraction-repulsion concept makes this story in particular, very difficult to put into a single framework. The asides of ‘a sip of whiskey,’ ‘a sip of gin’, could be that the speaker is getting more and more drunk and himself as losing the thread. That would be a very generous reading and also one that I could see Saroyan going with. At the same time, there is certainly a focus on the idea that the world is going in a wrong direction, and perhaps there is subtext that says the world is coming towards a reckoning that could well be, but Saroyan himself said this story was goofy, but some may like it. The goofy aspect is clear, there's a lot of comedy, and the funny thing is that it's actually more comedic now because it's come to a time which is more like the time he is describing than the time he was living in at the time. When he talks about the idea of patriotism as being a difficult aspect of his life, that's truly key, but I think in the same way he approaches patriotism as something that he definitely did have, and if you read him writing about America in general, he does have this joyous acceptance of being an American, at the same time as being highly critical of America itself. And Americans.

I think the contradictions within the existence of many of Saroyan’s works exists because he himself was conflict as to his own role in the world. He wants success, but he doesn't like the successful. Perhaps it's a way of him saying he's glad he doesn't have more success, but at this point in his career, he was pretty dang successful. He had cash, and he had cache. The question is, what did he view as meaning. I think that this story is him saying that his success doesn't mean much, that though he may personify himself as the speaker in that I truly think he is the speaker who is using Mark Lazansky as a stand in for himself. In essence, he's doing what he did with his own writing in the living in the dead, He has stepped outside of himself to look at himself and provide a view of that, as a somewhat objective observer gives Lazansky a backstory to make it less obvious, but in many ways, I think serene was describing what his ideal self was, or would have been at that point. And that makes it a very interesting connection with the rest of his work.

Thanks for listening to Forever Saroyan Presents: Three Times Three. I am your host, Chris Garcia. Hope you'll stay tuned for our next episode, “Life and Letters.” Thanks for listening.

Forever Saroyan Presents - Summertime

Forever Saroyan Presents - Three Times Three, with your host, Christopher J. Garcia. Today, we're looking at a story, the shortest story we've looked at so far, “Summertime.”

ThreeTImes summertimeThe introduction is brief, and opens with “’Summertime’ was written in the wintertime, Thursday, January 9 1936. In San Francisco. Wintertime is an excellent time during which to remember and fully know summertime and San Francisco for me is a good place in which to remember Fresno, my hometown. Perspective in time and space and climate.”

The idea there that one needs to be away from a thing to truly appreciate a thing is a classic, because, of course, absence makes the heart grow fonder. And it's a theme that Saroyan has definitely worked with often in his writing, and particularly in his personal writing, like Places I’ve Done Time in particular, how he views Fresno when he is away from Fresno, as opposed to how he viewed it at the time. Sadly, his view of Fresno in the 1910s, 20s and 30s, we really aren't 100% certain of his view at the time, and only know that through his recollections through his writing of the 1930s. The diaries he kept at the time are not widely available. We do know some through his letters, particularly those exchanged with Archie Minasian, but we have this idea that he was always trying to get out to become a part of the wider world. It would make sense that San Francisco, the New York City of the West, one could say, would be a fine place to reflect back on Fresno in much the same way that when he left for New York, he often reflected back on California and particularly Fresno.

The story itself is relatively simple. It opens with a general remembrance of summer in Fresno, particularly talking about the popcorn wagon that would come through town. It would seem odd to me that popcorn would be a popular food in Fresno during the summertime where it can be incredibly hot, but to each his own. He discussed how the horse drawn popcorn cart, much like today's ice cream trucks, would go through the streets. The popcorn cart apparently was a major attraction and when it's coming to the neighborhood was a big deal. That's an important touchstone for time and place. While popcorn carts are often found today at fairs, state fairs and the like, they're not roaming neighborhoods anymore. In fact, roaming cart salesmen other than things such as ice cream trucks, and particularly in Hispanic neighborhoods, you'll see fruit carts that are often wheeled around with people selling fruit and fruit spice. That methodology hasn't quite retained its flavor anymore, partly because of the wide-scale availability of cars, cars which enable the ice cream truck, for example.

Ph37 MIhran William 1947 webWhere the real meat of the story, particularly where the emotional meat of this story comes from, is in an interaction between our narrator and his uncle, who he calls Setrak. If we read this, as often we do certain stories in this collection and others, this is more than likely a reference to Saroyan himself as the narrator and his uncle Mihran as his uncle. There are certain keys here - one, the narrator notes that his father had passed away when he was young, much like Saroyan's father did, passing away in Campbell, California, in 1911, and two, mentions that the uncle Setrak is younger than his father would have been much like Uncle Mihran, the youngest of the children of Takoohi and Armenak Saroyan. Mihran remembered the old country, much like Setrak. It seems the exchange between the narrator and his uncle is somewhat bittersweet. They talked about how the family came from the old country, how being born in the new country of America makes it difficult to attach to the old country. And to understand the sort of connections with the area, it is very clear that the narrator wants a connection with his father that he never had in life.

It is also very clear that the uncle is not necessarily hesitant to share that connection, but might lack a emotional vocabulary to share that. And one interesting note is that the uncle notes that the narrator's father didn't talk much, but when he did, it was something important. This interlude, this interaction between the narrator and the and his uncle speaks of themes he would start to explore more in his later work, in particular, this could be a relatively small portion of a story in My Name is Aram. It is Saroyan’s attempt at connection with a family and a place that he did not know; he did not know his father, at this point he didn't know Armenia. So, he would very quickly visit this idea that he had of what both those things meant, and had to be mitigated through the others in his life. And much like Uncle Mihran did that for him in actual life, Uncle Setrak does that in the story. Again, we see the most important aspects of Saroyan’s literary style, as always he does not use quotation marks. This is an interesting choice and rare among literary writers. He simply uses said to indicate a speaker, though occasionally he even goes away from that, relying on the reader to keep track of the narration of the narrative, and the dialogue itself. For example –

Why are you so eager? He said.

Where did we live? First? I said.

You were born here. He said. You've lived in this valley all your life.

Where did my father live? I said.

 in the old country, he said.

What was the name of the city?

Bitlis.

Where was this city? In the mountains?

It was built in the mountains, and the streets, they are made of rock and they were crooked and narrow.

Do you remember my father in the streets of Beatless?

Of course, he was my brother.

You saw him. I said.

Despite the fact that he has completely rid the text of tags throughout half of that speech, you could still follow it, not just because it is back and forth broken into paragraphs, but because it is question and answer. And Saroyan understood readers' tendencies enough to know that you could get away with it, that you could cut away at that, in essence, forming a more minimalist track for his writing. This may be why Kurt Vonnegut referred to Saroyan as the first and still the best of American minimalists.

This ability to work without many of the signifiers that writers of the literary canon had used for more than a century at that point, established Saroyan's voice as one which was at once sentimental, but at the same time, relatively avant garde. By simply figuring that a reader was smart enough to do this much work, he was signifying that his work was worthy of this consideration. This is a wonderful story, very short, but unlike “The Question,” it provides a full idea, this idea of reflection on a past that is distant and how sometimes you have to have a conduit to get to it to achieve it. And here, I think he's done that.

Thanks for listening to Forever Saroyan presents three times three. I'm Chris Garcia, your host. Archivists are Dori Myer and Christopher J. Garcia. Forever Saroyan’s founder is Charles Janigian. Tune in for our next episode: Public Speech

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