One need not have been raised in Fresno to appreciate Saroyan, though I suppose it helps. Certainly he, better than anybody, captured the valley's strange texture: the mishmash landscape of farm, town and deserts; the jostling of so many different peoples, all a bit bewildered at finding themselves thrown together ... Certainly Fresnans never forgave Saroyan for his harsher observations about the old hometown. The more political Armenians complained he wasted too many words on the human comedy, and not enough on the tragedy of a lost homeland. That he wrote so personally, and from the heart, gave literary critics their target: He was, they scolded, an undisciplined sentimentalist, mawkish. ... For whatever reasons, Saroyan today is held under book-land quarantine. Few of his titles are in print. He's barely taught in schools. His own plans for literary legacy — a writers-in-residence program, posthumous publication of many works — have been scrapped or stalled. They did name a theater after him in Fresno, the one thing he expressly requested not be done.
Those who remain under the Saroyan spell can only hope that the world will come around. His work simply seems too extraordinary, and universal, to be cleared from the shelves...
Books - Reading
Writers and Writing
Critics and Criticism