The Human Comedy by William Saroyan, copies of which are readily available at any of your local bookstores, new or used, is a classic example of the Armenian-American humorist’s tenchnically skilled, engaging style with words.
In the California town of Ithaca, fourteen-year-old Homer Macauley works as a telegraph delivery boy, all too often bringing the families of soldiers the news of their loved ones’ death. Homer’s siblings include the watchful, 4 year old Ulysses Macauley, known for getting in so close as an observer of life that in one memorably humorous chapter, he becomes ensnared in a trap whose “principle seemed to be to take the animal, swing it up and around, and hold it off its feet until the trapper arrived,” his sister Bess, and his older brother Marcus Macauley, himself a member of the armed forces, away at war. His job brings him into contact with the elderly Mr. Grogan, an alcoholic by reason of pain who refuses to retire from his job since it’s the only world he knows and Mr. Spangler, who spends his days off in the company of his bride to be Diana Steed. Noth are uncommonly kind men, as evidenced by Grogan’s refusal to be robbed in one chapter, preferring to bestow ready cash on anyone desperate enough to attempt a robbery. These men are Homer’s supervisors, and from them as well as all the members of his family, his tutors in right life, hard work, and moral integrity. At school, he's determined to win the track race, and win the hand of the lovely Helen Elliot, who even appears naked in one of his daydreams (shocking for its time).
The New Yorker’s statement that this book is “a wild, rich invention that no sober man can equal” gives testament to Saroyan’s reputation as a exuberant personality given to the love of drink (and gambling) with friends like Nathanael West, John Fante and others. A particularly fond remembrance of this was presented by John Fante’s son Dan’s appearance at Denver bookstore Mutiny Now. According to the younger Fante, to whom Sarotyan once gave a new car in a gesture of largesse, when Bill was first presented with his writer’s contract, he leapt up on the publisher’s desk, shouting, “Double or nothing, you son of a b#@!ch!” Believe it or not, this worked, making William Saroyan the highest paid young writer (at least to start with) in an era when writers were considered the rock stars of their day. Readers may be wondering: Does Marcus Macauley make it home alive? Does he bring anybody back with him? What happens to Bess? Take a chance and read the book, you won’t be disappointed.