Today, in the weird way of New England weather, it’s fall again. Cool, crisp, the leaves tossing in a breeze. Yesterday, a scorcher, has already slid off the memory horizon. Today, I built a fire again in the wood stove. Tomorrow — who knows? Maybe that memory of yesterday will reincarnate in tomorrow’s heat.
I remember reading a lot of Saroyan as a teenager. His books I came across were all old and had been read many times, and, who knows, maybe some of them were out of print even then. As one of my odd rules of thumb, whenever I come across Saroyan in a used bookstore, I generally buy the book. I love reading him, for one thing; I don’t often these days come across either used bookstores or Saroyan; and an extra copy of Saroyan is always good to have on hand, because someone might need it. Surely one of the best short story opening lines is from “The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse.”
One day back there in the good old days when I was nine and the world was full of every imaginable kind of magnificence, and life was still a delightful and mysterious dream, my cousin Mourad, who was considered crazy by everyone who knew him except me, came to my house at four in the morning and woke me up by tapping on the window of my room.
The story, and the entire story collection, unfolds from here. “The Pomegranate Trees,” also in the collection whose image I’ve freely lifted below, remains one of my favorite stories. But sad, my own nine-year-old would protest. Too sad.
But Saroyan’s also one of the funniest writers I’ve read, that profound sadness (he was Armenian, after all) tempered with a marvelous joy and comedy. American life these days is often so stridently angry — justifiably so, perhaps, perhaps — and so serious, so often driven to compete and succeed, make something of yourself, and so on, etcetera. Imagine the unfettered joy you might have, if you were woken at the earliest dawn by your cousin and a beautiful white horse — stolen, no less, by your cousin whose family has been honest for “something like eleven centuries”? Horse-crazy as you likely are, I hope you leap out that window and not let this opportunity gallop by.