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William Saroyan
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    (August 31, 1908-May 18, 1981)
    Born in Fresno, California
    Armenian-American author
    Wrote the short story collection 'My Name Is Aram' (1940), the novel 'The Human Comedy' (1943) and the plays 'The Time of Your Life' (1939) and 'The Beautiful People' (1941)
    He divorced Carol Marcus after discovering that she was Jewish and born out of wedlock, then remarried her for less than a year.
    According to Carol's memoirs, he spent their wedding night reading 'Gulliver's Travels.'
    He spent his money on alcohol and gambling as fast as he earned it and was constantly in debt.
    After he mocked Ernest Hemingway's 'Death in the Afternoon,' Hemingway responded, 'We've seen them come and go. Good ones too. Better ones than you, Mr. Saroyan.'
    He turned down the Pulitzer Prize that he won for 'The Time of Your Life' on the grounds that commerce should not judge the arts.
    The Oscar that he earned for Best Original Story for 'The Human Comedy' disappeared after his death, eventually turning up in a San Francisco pawnshop, having been hocked for $250.
    He and his siblings spent five years in an orphanage after their father died until their mother could afford to take care of them.
    His stories were known for their optimism in the midst of the Depression.
    When Bennett Cerf took him to see his first Broadway play, he declared, 'For God's sake, I could write a better one than that in 24 hours!' He did, completing 'My Heart's in the Highland' within a day (1939).
    He and his cousin, Ross Bagdasarian, wrote the #1 hit 'Come On-A My House' for Rosemary Clooney.
    His advice to young writers was 'Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell.'
    Feeling an allegiance to both his homeland and his heritage, after his death half his ashes were buried in Fresno and half in the Armenian capital, Yerevan.

Credit: C. Fishel

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