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RESEARCH HELP > HUMANITIES AND AREA STUDIES > AMERICAN LITERARY STUDIES

American Literary Studies


William Saroyan Collection

The Collections

Stanford has a number of major collections of Saroyan material that include manuscripts, personal journals, correspondence, business records, fan mail, books, drawings, family papers, and memorabilia. The largest, the William Saroyan Papers (M0870), was assembled by Saroyan himself. Though it includes items from the full gamut of his life and career, its exhaustive coverage does not begin until the early 1940s. Among others, the collections include the William Saroyan Papers (M0978), which also come from the Saroyan family, the William Saroyan Manuscripts and Family and Business Correspondence (M1348), the William Saroyan Notebooks 1932-1939 (M1022), the William Saroyan and Grace Stone Coates Correspondence 1930-1938 (Misc 938), and the William Saroyan and Goldie Weisberg Correspondence 1930-1938 (M1125).

Finding Guides: Details are listed below with the specific collections.

Location of the Collections: Department of Special Collections, Green Library

Research Access and Use: Materials in the Department of Special Collections are non-circulating and must be used in the Special Collections' Reading Room in the Cecil H. Green Library. The Reading Room is open 10:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday. Photocopies, photographs, and microfilm can be made of some materials in the collections. For more information about the collections and access policies, please contact Special Collections by telephone at (650) 725-1022, by electronic mail at speccollref@stanford.edu or by regular mail at the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California 94305-6004.


Career of William Saroyan (1908 - 1981)

Novelist, short-story writer, dramatist, and essayist, William Saroyan was born in Fresno, California in 1908. A high-school dropout, Saroyan was largely self-educated and decided at an early age to pursue a career as a writer, drawing on his experience as an Armenian-American growing up in California. His first published works were sketches in The Overland Monthly in 1928, which inspired him to seek his fortune in New York City. In 1934 Story Magazine printed "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze." The immediate public acclaim led to publication of the collection The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze and Other Stories (1934) by Random House. He followed this success with two more short story collections in 1936, Three Times Three and Inhale and Exhale. Transforming one of these stories into his first dramatic production, My Heart's in the Highlands (1939), Saroyan then wrote The Time of Your Life (1939-40), for which he received both New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The same year he released the story collection, My Name is Aram (1940), a Book of the Month Club selection. In late 1941 Saroyan agreed to work for Louis B. Mayer in Hollywood. This resulted both in the Oscar-winning MGM film, The Human Comedy, (1943) as well as the popular novelized version of the original screenplay, published by Harcourt Brace simultaneously with the movie's opening. Drafted into the army, Saroyan was stationed during part of World War II in London, where he wrote the controversial anti-war book, The Adventures of Wesley Jackson (1946). Through the 50s he continued to produce plays, short stories, and novels. He then turned to personal memoirs to express himself, producing in succession The Bicycle Rider in Beverly Hills (1952), Here Comes, There Goes, You Know Who (1961), Not Dying (1963), and Obituaries (1980), which was nominated for the American Book Award. A final volume of reminiscence, Births (1983), was published posthumously.

 

William Saroyan Papers (1926-1981) (bulk 1940-1981)

Size: 185 Linear feet

Call Number: M0870

Finding Guide: A printed version is available in the reading room of the Department of Special Collections. Electronic versions of this finding guide are also available. If you have Microsoft's Internet Explorer version 6.0 or higher, click here to connect to the XML version on the Stanford server; if not, click here for the html version on the Online Archives of California server.

  1. Correspondence, ca. 1926-1981
  2. Fanmail, 1931-1981
  3. Financial and Legal papers
  4. Journals, 1934-1981
  5. Manuscripts, 1928-1981
  6. Notes, 1932-ca. 1980
  7. Scrapbooks and Address Books, 1940-1980
  8. Ephemera and Travel Memorabilia
  9. Clippings and Tearsheets

Also present is Saroyan's personal library, which consists of thousands of volumes, including his own works in their many editions and translations as well as his copies of other writers' books.

Descriptions of the Series

Series 1. Correspondence, ca. 1926-1981 (120 Boxes)
Correspondence in the collection covers the years 1926-1981, with the bulk falling in the years after 1950. Major correspondents include family members, attorneys, agents, and publishers. Also included are notable literary, stage and film figures such as Charley Chaplin and Oona O'Neill, John Houseman, Darryl F. Zanuck, George Jean Nathan, Garson Kanin, and composers Joaquin Rodrigo and Alan Hovhaness. From the 1950s on, Saroyan kept carbon copies of most of his correspondence, which he attached to letters incoming from others. Approximately one quarter of all correspondence is from William Saroyan himself. Saroyan occasionally used the pseudonym "Aram Garoghlanian" for magazine subscriptions and it may appear on other correspondence as well.

Series 2. Fan Mail, 1931-1981 (8 cartons)
This series includes all fan mail and autograph requests received by Saroyan. In some cases Saroyan replied to fan letters (though seldom to autograph requests) and his replies are included here. Also included are Christmas and birthday cards, invitations and get-well cards. In some specific cases, such as those of family members, these items have been filed with the correspondence from that individual or organization and are part of Series I.

Series 3. Financial and Legal Papers, various dates (5 cartons)
This series contains documents such as tax forms, bank statements, miscellaneous bills and receipts, wills, and real estate papers. It is by no means a complete record and researchers are urged to also consult correspondence with relevant organizations, lawyers and family members--in particular Henry Saroyan, Cosette Saroyan, and, regarding Saroyan's Malibu and Bolinas properties, Hank Saroyan and Aram Saroyan.

Series 4. Journals, 1934-1981 (21 cartons)
Journals for the years 1934-1938 contain only scattered entries, but for the remainder of the years until 1981 there are entries for all but perhaps a dozen months. In addition to regular journals, Saroyan also kept desk and pocket diaries as well as notebooks with miscellaneous entries. Correspondence and photographs found loose in all of the above items have been removed, with notations made regarding their removal. In some cases manuscripts have been bound into journals and their titles have been listed in the index to manuscripts. Saroyan occasionally gave titles to his journals and considered them to be literary pieces. Researchers are advised to consult the manuscripts, particularly the essay and personal narrative sections, for works which fill the chronological gaps in the journals.

Series 5. Manuscripts, 1928-1981 (58 cartons)
Manuscripts series covers all literary works. Categories of manuscripts include novels, plays, short stories, essays, personal narratives, memoirs, collections, miscellaneous works, untitled and incomplete works, prefaces, reviews, poems and music. Included with some manuscripts are notes on theatrical performances, foreign translations, television and film scripts, notes, and tearsheets (published pieces removed from magazines.)

Series 6. Notes, 1932-ca. 1980 (23 cartons)
Notes include bits and pieces from all other categories: beginnings of letters, discarded pages from manuscripts, lists of debts and travel itineraries. If substantial notes existed for particular manuscripts they have been placed with those manuscripts. A second category of notes consists of those Saroyan kept on various scraps of paper, envelopes, junk mail and so forth. Content is similar to the typed notes, although there are no extensive notes regarding manuscripts. Most notes in this category are fairly brief.

Series 7. Scrapbooks and Address Books, 1940-1980 (2 cartons)
Includes six scrapbooks of Saroyan theatrical productions and other theater news (including the Saroyan Theatre) and 24 address books ranging in date from 1942-1980.

Series 8. Ephemera and Travel Memorabilia (9 cartons)
Includes items such as catalogs, playbills, ticket stubs, menus, and miscellaneous printed materials. Travel items include the above as well as travel brochures, itineraries, airplane tickets and miscellaneous notes.

Series 9. Clippings and Tearsheets (7 cartons)
Includes newspaper clippings, both foreign and domestic, on a wide variety of topics: reviews of Saroyan's works and theatrical productions; articles about Saroyan's career and family; gossip columns; notices about upcoming radio, television or theatrical productions in trade papers; as well as syndicated pieces actually by Saroyan himself. Tearsheets consist mainly of Saroyan pieces published in magazines as well as some feature stories on Saroyan and family members. (Some tearsheets are already included as part of the manuscripts series.)

 

William Saroyan Papers (1926-1950) (bulk 1926-1940)

Size: 15 cartons, approx. 50 linear feet

Call Number: M0978

Finding Guide: A preliminary inventory of the collection can be viewed by clicking here.

Content: This collection (M0978) exhaustively documents Saroyan's career from its beginning in the 1920s through the 1930s. Especially strong for Saroyan's apprentice years, the collection contains manuscripts of his earliest work, including unpublished novellas, stories, and essays that pre-date his breakthrough in 1934 with The Daring young Man on the Flying Trapeze. Also present are professional and family correspondence.

 

William Saroyan Manuscripts and Family and Business Correspondence

Size: 8 cartons, approximately 3.5 linear feet

Call Number: M1348

Finding Guide: A finding guide of the collection can be viewed by clicking here.

Content: Acquired by Stanford University Libraries in 2002, this collection contains manuscripts by William Saroyan of Little Caruso; Man Alive; Inhale & Exhale; Three Times Three; False Starts; Love, Here is my Hat; Little Children; The Trouble with Tigers; Dear Baby; Glenn Keats, Hero; A Christmas Psalm; and unpublished poems. The collection contains correspondence from Saroyan family members, including Cosette Saroyan, Ross Bagdasarian, and Archie Minasian among others. There is a substantive group of letters from Carol Marcus/Saroyan to William Saroyan. Also included are letters from close friends and business acquaintances.

 

William Saroyan Notebooks (1932-1939)

Size: 43 holograph notebooks containing 1568 notebook leaves

Call Number: M1022

Finding Guide: A printed version is available in the reading room of the Department of Special Collections. Electronic versions of this finding guide are also available. If you have Microsoft's Internet Explorer version 6.0 or higher, click here to connect to the XML version on the Stanford server; if not, click here for the html version on the Online Archives of California server.

Content: The collection consists of daily journals in Saroyan’s own hand recording ideas for stories, musings, plans, observations, and resolutions for the future. The period covered by these journals follows Saroyan from his early efforts at writing and first magazine publications to the release of his early books of short stories and his early successes on Broadway.

 

William Saroyan and Grace Stone Coates Correspondence (1930-1938)

Size: 4 folders with 64 letters

Call Number: Misc 938

Content: Grace Stone Coates was a fellow writer and also the editor of The Frontier, a magazine to which Saroyan submitted some of his earliest stories. Their correspondence, which marks one of the few serious literary relations Saroyan had during his entire career, coincides with the crucial formative period of Saroyan's writing life.

 

William Saroyan and Goldie Weisberg Correspondence (1930-1934)

Size: 55 letters from Saroyan, 36 letters and cards from Weisberg

Call Number: M1155

Finding Guide: A printed version is available in the reading room of the Department of Special Collections. Electronic versions of this finding guide are also available. If you have Microsoft's Internet Explorer version 6.0 or higher, click here to connect to the XML version on the Stanford server; if not, click here for the html version on the Online Archives of California server.

Content: Goldie Weisberg was a a fellow writer whose work Saroyan had discovered in a literary magazine. Saroyan initiated the correspondence, which focuses on their respective reading, writing, and work lives. The letters are intensely literary and show a side of Saroyan that becomes virtually invisible to documentation after his popular success in 1934.

 

Correspondence with Frank (Yep) Moradian, Together with Related Photographs, Recordings, and Clippings (1929-1999)

Size: 1 linear ft. (1 manuscript box and 1 print box)

Call Number: M1324

Access: Record available in Socrates. Inquire at Special Collections.

Content: One folder of correspondence, 1929-1980 and nd, which includes a particularly remarkable unmailed letter written by Saroyan shortly after arriving in New York in 1929. A mimeographed letter from Aram Saroyan to the editor of the Fresno Bee shortly after his father's death, 1982. Six 45 rpm record disks recording Saroyan and others. 3 cassette tapes which include Saroyan discussing Fresno and a commercial recording of Saroyan reading and commenting on The Human Comedy, issued together with the Dell paperback edition of the novel. Photographs (5), including a 1947 dinner event that included Yep and Roxie Moradian, William and Carol Saroyan, Oona O'Neill Chaplin and Charlie Chaplin; magazine articles (4); and newsclippings (2 folders).

 

Journal and Letters (Armenak Saroyan)

Size: 4 items

Call Number: Misc 1506

Access: Record available in Socrates. Inquire at Special Collections.

Content: 1) bound manuscript with t.p.: A.B. Saroyan, 114 King Street, New-York, Nov. 24th '905, Journey from Erzeroum to New-York City : second part, from Trabizond to Marseille; 2) letter dated 1906; 3) letter dated Campbell, Cal. Mar. 26, 11; 4) envelope stamped Jun. 24 1971 with William Saroyan's handwritten message: Campbell Mar 1911, handwritten letter in Armenian from Peprov. Is it Armenak's?. The 1st item has additions with later dates: 26 & 27 Jan. 1906.

 

Letters (and Manuscripts and Photos) to Frances Ring (1970-1980)

Size: 2 folders

Call Number: Misc 1271

Access: Record available in Socrates. Inquire at Special Collections.

Content: Includes 14 letters and one card from Saroyan to Ring, copies of 8 letters from Ring to Saroyan, three photographs of Saroyan, one manuscript of prose by Saroyan, "A little of the world around Stanley Rose's bookstore in Hollywood 50 years ago," 1970-1974, corrected carbon and earlier corrected photocopy, and one manuscript of a poem by Saroyan, "We write. We write," 1979.

 

Incoming Letters (1981)

Size: 2 letters

Call Number: Misc 825

Access: Record available in Socrates. Inquire at Special Collections.

Content: One letter each from Mickey Rooney and Ronald Reagan. These letters were written during the summer of 1981, when the William Saroyan Tribute Committee was creating "William Saroyan -- A Celebration of his Life and Works."

 

Letter to Gordon Brown (October 29, 1954)

Size: 1 page

Call Number: Misc 666

Access: Record available in Socrates. Inquire at Special Collections.

Content: The letter discusses the challenges facing free-lance writers. Gordon Brown was an editor at WESTWARD Magazine, a publication of Kaiser Steel Corporation in 1954. Saroyan wished to make changes in a manuscript ("A Christmas Psalm," 1935) which they wanted to reprint, but because of a publishing deadline the magazine had to pass on it.

 

The Time of Your Life: Steppenwolf Theatre Company Production Ephemera (2002)

Size: 1 folder

Call Number: Misc 1488

Access: Record available in Socrates. Inquire at Special Collections.

Content: Material relating to the production of "The Time of Your Life," including press releases, PLAYBILL, BACKSTAGE, a twenty-five year anniversary publication for Steppenwolf Theater Company, and numerous reviews.

 

William Saroyan Stamp, First Day of Issue: Official Commemorative Cachet and First Day Cover (May 22, 1991)

Size: 3 items

Call Number: Misc 1073

Access: Record available in Socrates. Inquire at Special Collections.

 

Don Freeman Sketches of William Saroyan and Illustrations for Some Saroyan Books (1940-1943)

Size: 2 linear feet (2 print boxes and 1 manuscript box)

Call Number: M1672

Access: Record available in Socrates. Inquire at Special Collections.

Content: Illustrations for Saroyan's Human Comedy, 1943; Me and Aram and the Armenians and the World, undated; and My Name is Aram, circa 1940. Also includes sketches of Saroyan, clippings about Freeman's illustrations for Saroyan's work, and some correspondence.

 

Related Manuscript Collections and Resources

Bibliography of William Saroyan

  • Keridian, David. A Bibliography of William Saroyan, 1934-1964. San Francisco : Beacham, 1965.

Selected Biography and Criticism

  • Foard, Elizabeth C. William Saroyan : A Reference Guide. Boston, MA : G.K. Hall, 1988.
  • Foster, Edward Halsey. William Saroyan. Boise, Idaho : Boise State University, 1984
  • Floan, Howard Russell. William Saroyan. New York : Twayne Publishers, 1966.
  • Gifford, Barry and Lee, Lawrence. Saroyan: A Biography. Harper & Row, 1984.
  • Saroyan, Aram. William Saroyan. San Diego : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983.
  • Whitmore, Jon. William Saroyan: A Research and Production Sourcebook. Westport, CT : Greenwood Press, 1994.

 

 

Last modified: April 30, 2009

     
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