Madness in the Family

William Saroyan, Author, Leo Hamalian, Editor New Directions Publishing Corporation $12.95 (141p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1064-5
Saroyan has suffered the undeserved fate of a once-popular writer who outlives the time when his voice seemed fresh and ingratiating, surviving into a period that regards his work as sentimental, folksy and old-fashioned. This new collection of 17 of his better storiesincluding the late pieces that ran in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly and Harper'sshould help restore the balance. Inevitably, most of the tales center on the more peculiar endearing aspects of Armenian-American family life in Fresno, Calif., featuring some of the zany characters who pranced through the collected works. Uncle Voratan of the title story is convinced a man is not a man until he's gone mad and that an immigrant can't really call America home until someone in the family dies and is buried there. Those who remember young Aram with affection will enjoy ""Fire,'' where a baffled boy watches his Uncle Gumyaz torch a house for the insurance money; and in ``The Last Word Was Love''one of the more poignant and moving taleswhen an older brother leaves home to escape the incessant squabbling of their parents. Sweetness in these stories sometimes gives way to archness or outrageous whimsy, and some tales succumb to excessive preaching. But Saroyan was a benign presence in American letters, as this collection attests. (April)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1988
Release date: 04/01/1988
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