Typewriter of the moment: William Saroyan (again)

September 28, 2011

On the 30th anniversary of the death of William Saroyan, we repeat an earlier post on his typewriter:

William Saroyan's typewriter, photo from the Bancroft Library, University of Caliornia - Berkeley

William Saroyan's typewriter, displayed at the Saroyan Museum at his home in San Francisco - photo from the Bancroft Library, University of California; Berkeley

William Saroyan’s niece, Jacqueline Kazarian, recently gifted the Bancroft Library with a significant part of the archives of Saroyan’s work. The press release on the gift included a photo of Saroyan’s Fox typewriter, which is displayed at the Saroyan museum in San Francisco.

Saroyan came from an Armenian American family, born in Fresno, California in 1908. His writings illuminated the experience of Californians and Armenian Americans, especially during the Great Depression.

In many ways Saroyan’s work symbolizes the uniqueness of the Armenian community in America, especially California. [You still out there, Ben Davidian?] Wikipedia strikes the right tone:

Saroyan’s stories celebrated optimism in the midst of the trials and tribulations of the Depression. Several of Saroyan’s works were drawn from his own experiences, although his approach to autobiographical fact contained a fair bit of poetic license.

His advice to a young writer was: “Try to learn to breathe deeply; really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell.” Saroyan endeavored to create a prose style full of zest for life and seemingly impressionistic, that came to be called “Saroyanesque”.

The complete May 19, 2010, press release from the University of California is below.

a sketch "from a Turkish admirer," a photo of the author in his youth, and a framed sketch of Saroyan

The Bancroft Library's new archival material on William Saroyan includes (left to right) a sketch "from a Turkish admirer," a photo of the author in his youth, and a framed drawing of Saroyan with a passage of his writing on Armenia. (Images courtesy of the Bancroft Library)

The Bancroft Library accepts gift of William Saroyan archives

By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations | 19 May 2010

William Saroyan

William Saroyan (Photo courtesy of The Bancroft Library)

BERKELEY — The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, has received a spectacular gift of hundreds of books, drawings, correspondence and other personal communications to and from one of America’s best-known writers, the Armenian-American author and playwright William Saroyan.

The rich collection includes approximately 48 cartons with 1,200 books and other archival materials assembled by his niece, Jacqueline Kazarian, of San Francisco, who also is the founder of the William Saroyan Literary Foundation International. A celebration of the gift is set for noon on Friday (May 21) at The Faculty Club on campus.

“UC Berkeley is such an incredible place of learning and growing and intellectual exploration,” said Kazarian, who earned degrees in communication and decorative arts at UC Berkeley in the early 1950s. “I know that my uncle wanted his library, manuscripts and galleys to go to Berkeley. Students will be inspired by the collection.”

Apart from this gift, The Bancroft Library already retains significant holdings of Saroyan’s work that it collected over the course of his life and career, and it continues to add to that collection. Most of the latest materials come from Saroyan’s home on San Francisco’s 15th Avenue that is now a Saroyan museum directed by Kazarian. Those materials were supplemented by Kazarian’s extensive personal collection, as well as by items of Saroyan’s that she acquired through a prominent Boston archivist and via a Saroyan friend.

“Jacqueline Kazarian’s new gift is the largest and most substantial augmentation to the Saroyan collections at Bancroft that we have ever received,” said Peter Hanff, Bancroft’s deputy director.

The author’s classic manual typewriter, as displayed at his San Francisco home

The author’s classic Fox manual typewriter, as displayed at his San Francisco home. (Photo courtesy of The Bancroft Library)

Saroyan, born in Fresno, Calif., in 1908, drew extensively on his Armenian-American heritage and childhood experiences for his books, plays and short stories. Much of his writing was considered impressionistic and reflected a hearty optimism often hard to find during the gritty Great Depression. He died in 1981 at the age of 72, with his niece at his side.When Story magazine editors Martha Foley and Whit Burnett printed Saroyan’s “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze” in 1934, it was an immediate success, triggering Saroyan’s fame and standing as one of his many literary achievements.

“Uncle Bill’s writing revolutionized the short story,” said Kazarian, adding that she has always found his work “almost spiritual and fable-like.”

His five-act play, “The Time of Your Life,” is the only American play to have won both the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Saroyan’s work as a screenwriter with Hollywood director Louis B. Mayer on the film “The Human Comedy” won an Academy Award in 1943, and Saroyan later wrote a widely acclaimed book with the same title.

Kazarian’s gift to The Bancroft Library includes multiple first editions of Saroyan’s works, such as “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze,” “My Name is Aram” (1940), “The Human Comedy” and “Obituaries” (1979), and many materials personally inscribed by the writer. Also among the new items according to Steven Black, the head of acquisitions for Bancroft, are letters, telegrams and notes written by Saroyan to relatives and others close to him, mostly during the 1930s and 1940s.

antiquarian book dealer Peter Howard of Berkeley, shown here poring through Saroyan materials

Antiquarian book dealer Peter Howard of Berkeley, poring through Saroyan materials. (Photo courtesy of The Bancroft Library)

“He personalized a lot of what passed through his hands,” Black said, noting that much of the material features marginalia reflecting Saroyan’s thoughts and interests.

There also is a copy of Henry Miller’s “Aller Retour New York,” an 80-page journal about a 1935 visit by Miller to New York City and his journey aboard a Dutch ship back to Europe. It is inscribed by Miller to Saroyan.

And a Saroyan scrapbook in the collection contains press announcements about the Pulitzer Prize for his book, “The Time of Your Life.” He scoffed at the award, contending that the arts should not be judged by commerce.

The new Bancroft collection also contains a pre-publication proof of “Burnt Norton,” the first poem of T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” which Black said the publisher may have given to Saroyan “when he crossed the pond” on a trip from his temporary home in France to England.

There also is a wide range of magazines, including issues of Horizon and the Partisan Review, a leading publication of the Anglo-American intelligentsia during the 1930s and ’40s, Black said.

The first major deposit at The Bancroft Library of Saroyan’s papers was recorded in October 1980, and the library agreed to organize the collection and give Saroyan a general description and an index. After Saroyan died in 1981, the Saroyan Foundation paid the library to continue assembling the papers for official archives, which the foundation ultimately decided to place at Stanford University. That happened in 1996.

William Saroyan's niece, Jacqueline Kazarian, surveys materials at his San Francisco home

William Saroyan's niece, Jacqueline Kazarian, surveys materials in his home. (Photo courtesy of The Bancroft Library)

Kazarian’s donation is in honor of Berkeley antiquarian book dealer Peter Howard, who has provided appraisal assistance to Bancroft on Saroyan materials and other collections for decades. While director of The Bancroft Library, the late James D. Hart also developed strong professional and personal ties to Saroyan over the years, according to Kazarian and Black.

“Now, the Saroyan family materials come to a place that Saroyan himself would have been happy to see accepting them,” Black said, noting that Bancroft is proud to have so much of Saroyan’s “intellectual remains” to be able to share with the public.

Scheduled to speak about the acquisition at Friday’s event are Jacqueline Kazarian; David Calonne, vice president of education for the Saroyan Literary Foundation International and a Saroyan scholar; San Francisco novelist Herbert Gold; theater director Val Hendrickson reading Saroyan’s short story, “Common Prayer,” and the credo to “The Time of Your Life”; and Charles Faulhaber, director of The Bancroft Library.

UC Berkeley already is home to an Armenian Studies Program, which is focused on contemporary Armenian history, politics, language and culture. And Bancroft, a rich, special collections library containing historical and literary documents and other materials relating to California, the West, Mexico and Latin America, is known for its strong collections on California writers, including Jack London, Robinson Jeffers, Bret Harte, Frank Norris and others.

More information about The Bancroft Library is online. Bancroft is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

More:

William Saroyan commemorative stamps from the U.S., and U.S.S.R.

On commemorative stamps issued in both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., Saroyan wears the Armenian-style moustache he wore through most of his later life. For a stamp to honor a man in both the U.S. and the Soviet Union was extremely rare -- maybe unique.


Saroyan, gone 30 years

September 28, 2011

Time fills up with anniversaries, if we remember history long enough.

Today is This year marks the 30th anniversary of William Saroyan’s death (on May 18).  A few hits on my post about his typewriter made me aware of the date.

There’s a nice tribute by Tom Vartabedian to the legacy of Saroyan, a man who loved books and who understood the value of knowledge, literature, a library, and what it means to be Armenian, at the Armenian Weekly.

An interesting guy, with interesting stories most often about one of our planet’s more interesting groups of people.  In 1936 Saroyan wrote about the resiliency and vibrancy of Armenians, in Inhale and Exhale.  One quote can be purchased from the William Saroyan Society on a poster:

I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.

30 years since he passed?  Really?


Quote of the moment: Charles Dodgson and Tea Party logic, “six impossible things”

September 27, 2011

John Tenniel's drawing of Alice A-dressing the White Queen, in "Through the Looking Glass" 1865 - Wikimedia image

John Tenniel's drawing of Alice A-dressing the White Queen, "Through the Looking Glass" 1865 - Wikimedia image

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), Through the Looking Glass, Chapter V, “Wool and Water.” 1871 (Gutenberg edition)

Below the fold; the quote in larger context.

Read the rest of this entry »


Strike a blow for freedom and the Constitution: Read a banned book!

September 26, 2011

John Maunu reminded me this week is Banned Books Week.  Details from the American Library Association:

Banned Books Week 2011

September 24−October 1, 2011

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.  Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week.  BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings.  Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections.  Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores.  It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. In 2011, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; and PEN American Center also signed on as sponsors.

For more information on getting involved with Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, please see Calendar of Events, Ideas and Resources, and the new Banned Books Week site. You can also contact the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4220, or bbw@ala.org.


Northland Poster Collective dead; long live Ricardo Levins Morales

September 25, 2011

Great posters with provocative aphorisms came out of the Northland Poster Collective.  Alas, Northland called it quits in 2010.

One of their best artists, Ricardo Levins Morales, continues the fight at his own site.  Morales is the guy who made this work, on the importance of standardized student tests:

Testing, by Ricardo Levins Morales

Testing, by Ricardo Levins Morales

Earlier I questioned whether Einstein actually said that.  I don’t think he did — but I love the poster and the sentiment, all the same.  I haven’t been able to verify the quote in Alice Calaprice’s The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, for example.

In my classroom the air conditioning often did not work last spring, at testing time.  When we’d open the windows, we’d get visitors — usually bees, but birds on at least two occasions.  The student in the picture has her priorities right.

The poster is just $10.95.  Teachers, if a dozen of these appeared in your school, it might make a difference.


Neutrinos and the speed of light

September 24, 2011

As usual, XKCD makes sense of unbelievable news:

XKCD and the neutrinos faster-than-the-speed-of-light thing

Click to see original at XKCD


Regulation works

September 21, 2011

Jim Weygand writing at the Twin Cities Daily Planet in Minnesota, defends government regulation:

For example there is not an industry today that is not safer than it was prior to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) in 1970. Since OSHA was created in 1970, workplace fatalities have decreased 60% despite the more than doubling of the work force. Job related injuries and illness rates have decreased by 40%. And, yes government regulation has increased.

We can also credit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the restrictions on DDT that have brought our eagle and ospreys back from the edge of extinction as well as protecting us from its effects.

It has worked to prevent future Love Canal type environmental disasters. Government controls on nuclear power have prevented a Chernobyl disaster in this country.


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