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Books: Jumping Jack

2 minute read

THE TROUBLE WITH TIGERS — William Saroyan—Harcourt, Brace ($2.50).

His fourth collection of short stories in two years, The Trouble With Tigers, continues William Saroyan’s noisy demand to be taken seriously. As he states it: “I am studying timeless and contemporary idiocy in man and in myself, and timeless and contemporary poise and dignity in beasts. plants, rocks, rivers, seas, and myself, and I am translating the universe, time and space, pneumatics, size, relativity, sleep, anger, despair, energy, motion, sound, texture, memory, and many other things into English.”

Saroyan’s cute childhood, his poverty, his poignant memory of every hamburger he ever ate, his nutty relatives—the subjects of most of his previous stories—are the subjects of about half of the 35 stories in The Trouble With Tigers. The other half—exhibiting Saroyan’s fiercest inhaling and exhaling to date—consists of stories about Hollywood and essays on the contemporary idiocy of Man in general. Besides working last year as a cinema writer, Saroyan evidently studied up on Dostoyevsky and Whitman.

The Trouble With Tigers does one good thing: it settles the argument about what Saroyan’s writing is all about. “I have written one word,” he announces, “God.” Altogether he intends to write three. The second will be “Is.” The third: “Love.” The announcement of this program makes dawning sense, for if Saroyan appears in his stories in any consistent role, it is as a sort of humanist jumping jack, waiting only until he has written a few more Books of Saroyan to leap forward as a U. S. prophet.

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