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William Saroyan


Novelist, short-story writer, dramatist, and essayist, William Saroyan was born in Fresno, California in 1908. A high-school dropout, Saroyan was largely self-educated and decided at an early age to pursue a career as a writer, drawing on his experience as an Armenian-American growing up in California. His first published works were sketches in The Overland Monthly in 1928, which inspired him to seek his fortune in New York City. In 1934 Story Magazine printed ‘The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.’ The immediate public acclaim led to publication of the collection The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze and Other Stories (1934) by Random House. He followed this success with two more short story collections in 1936, Three Times Three and Inhale and Exhale. Transforming one of these stories into his first dramatic production, My Heart’s in the Highlands (1939), Saroyan then wrote The Time of Your Life (1939-40), for which he received both New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The same year he released the story collection, My Name is Aram (1940), a Book of the Month Club selection. In late 1941 Saroyan agreed to work for Louis B. Mayer in Hollywood. This resulted both in the Oscar-winning MGM film, The Human Comedy, (1943) as well as the popular novelized version of the original screenplay, published by Harcourt Brace simultaneously with the movie’s opening. Drafted into the army, Saroyan was stationed during part of World War II in London, where he wrote the controversial anti-war book, The Adventures of Wesley Jackson (1946). Through the 50s he continued to produce plays, short stories, and novels. He then turned to personal memoirs to express himself, producing in succession The Bicycle Rider in Beverly Hills (1952), Here Comes, There Goes, You Know Who (1961), Not Dying (1963), and Obituaries (1980), which was nominated for the American Book Award. A final volume of reminiscence, Births (1983), was published posthumously.