STARTING OUT IN THE SIXTIES

Aram Saroyan, Author . Talisman $21.95 (209p) ISBN 978-1-58498-016-2

Saroyan, poet, novelist and biographer of his father, William Saroyan, presents a satisfying collection of meditations on an American literary life. His subjects range from the purely literary to the Armenian genocide of 1915, the Clinton legacy and Oliver Stone. He describes his own work as "a social and psychological history of the generation that came of age... in the sixties," and indeed the reader is treated to a recapitulation of an inspired time. Saroyan's essays are tinged with a sweet idealism redolent of the '60s, but the insights occasionally lack the nuance of a life lived also in the decades that followed. He criticizes the West, for instance, for following the Armenian genocide of 1915 with a "genocide of the mind" (wherein the event apparently disappeared from collective memory), seemingly ignoring that today it is impossible to argue that the genocide and its forgetting was not a travesty. Still, Saroyan pleads that the Armenian tragedy be "acknowledged and scrutinized and publicly aired"—as if poet Peter Balakian hadn't written the much-praised The Black Dog of Fate, about his own family's experience of the genocide—and urges contemporary writers to "look closely at our own domestic situation, in addition to monitoring the international literary scene." The strengths of this collection emerge from Saroyan's abstract imagination: "Children are the habit of organisms, to be a parent is to be employed by the universe itself. The reward is magic rather than money, but that doesn't hold the universe back." This is a charming and worthwhile collection, however flawed. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
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