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Honest Wisdom and Wit of Saroyan Shines,
This review is from: Man with the Heart in the Highlands: And Other Stories (New Directions Classics) (Paperback)
Armenian-American inhabitant William Saroyan, whose heday was between 1934-1940 in San Francisco, is a great America writer of human short stories. He is gifted in characterization, in his ability to capture emotions and interpersonal subtleties; he is also overflowing with a sort of honest wisdom from whose cup it is a pleasure, via reading his stories to drink. There are several great stories in this collection; Secrets of Alexandria is about two isolated moviegoers with movie stars and hoping to hook up but thwarted by events; The Brothers and Sisters tells of the disillusionment of a buff young guy in lust with an innocent hooker, who is accompanied to the mysterious site of his jealousy by a religious member of a family of wine merchants; The Living and the Dead hilariously recounts the commentary of an Armenian grandmother, whose dead husband, a horse-riding drunk who terrorized and was never seen to cry, spouted incomparable oratory. Many of the best stories focus on the invisible fulcrum of passing time, the moment when an individual realizes, in the face of inexorable events, that things will not be the same. Relatedly, the stories perfectly capture the loss, the missingness, as it were, of the beloved. Dear Baby captures a boxer on the way out, fighting against odds for his dead sweetheart. The wonderful The Great Leapfrog Contest, perhaps my favorite, tells of a new neighborhood girl, Rosie Mahoney, the youngest of a big Irish family who moves into a non-Irish neighborhood where she proves her superiority to all the neighborhood boys-even the new, strong, instinctually cool and filmic-but not Rosie-quality-guy who moves in from Texas and refuses to engage in fisticuffs with a female. Many Miles Per Hour tells of young boys ogling a car souped up to go over fifty (!) miles per hour. Many of the stories feature, or have young male characters; because the stories take place in the first half of the 20th century, they contain a wonderful historical quality. Sweetheart, Sweetheart, Sweetheart details the angst of a teen desired by a married neighbor whose mother and sister realize what's going on before he does, and laugh when she takes a grown lover, never again to play the story's eponymous song which, she had said, was devoted to him.
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