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1112005

William Saroyan

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“No publishing house, including The Atlantic, wants to publish what I want published,

when I want it published, so what’s the point of making a deal with any of them?

William Saroyan, 1908-1981.  Armenian-American dramatist and author.  Typed Letter Signed, Bill Saroyan, with holograph postscript signed, W.S., one page, 8½” x 11”, Malibu, California, January 3, 1959.

After returning home to a “small house . . . always enormously clutterred [sic] with accumulations . . . whenever I get home after a little travel,” Saroyan writes to editors at The Atlantic Monthly to say that he is in no hurry to publish his autobiographical memoir, Fifty Fifty, and that there is no urgency to publish any of his other work.  He nevertheless sends them a short story, Robert Burns, for their consideration. 

Saroyan writes, in part:  “As for Fifty Fifty, a few days ago I put the very large manuscript in order, by weeks, 52 in number:  and it is an enormous work, much too big:  I read at random here and there as I went along, to find out if the stuff was any good at all:  it was, it is, but I do want to let it rest for an indefinite period of time.  I am a free agent insofar as publishing is concerned—but we went through all this before, I believe.  No publishing house, including The Atlantic, wants to publish what I want published, when I want it published, so what’s the point of making a deal with any of them?  There really is no urgency at all about the publication of anything of mine.  Eventually every bit of it will be published—not that that is important, or means anything.  The economics just now are changed for publishers, that’s all.  /  Here is a short story called Robert Burns.  I thought you might want it.”

“Ted” and “Sam,” to whom Saroyan writes, are Edward Weeks, editor of The Atlantic Monthly, and Seymour Lawrence, director of The Atlantic Monthly Press. 

Saroyan’s insistence that there was “no urgency at all about the publication of anything of mine” smacks of reverse psychology.  Saroyan was deep in tax trouble and needed the money.  In a letter just over three weeks later, which we also sold, he wrote to Lawrence again to say that he was leaving for Europe indefinitely and to express his anxiety to to know whether The Atlantic Monthly wanted to publish Robert Burns.  Click here to see that letter.

As this letter indicates, Saroyan had just returned to Malibu from a trip around the world.  He began Fifty Fifty the day after his fiftieth birthday on August 31, 1958, and finished it a year later, on August 31, 1959.  Ultimately that memoir was never published, but Saroyan later published an autobiography, Here Comes There Goes You Know Who, in 1962 and a memoir, Short Drive, Sweet Chariot (Phaedra), in 1966.

Saroyan has signed this letter with a huge two-line fountain pen signature and added a three-line holograph postscript signed with his initials.  The letter has two horizontal mailing folds, one of which barely touches the last “l” in “Bill.”  The recipients’ pencil notations and date stamp are in blank areas at the top and left margin, and there are staple holes at the upper left.  The letter is in fine condition.

Unframed.

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