Author Mark Arax is set to speak at an exhibit entitled “William Saroyan – The Painted Word” at the Saratoga Library. The talk, entitled “Echoes of Saroyan,” will be held on Saturday, August 6 at 2:30 p.m. The event will open at 1 p.m. and close at 5 p.m.
Arax’s lecture will focus on Saroyan’s writing and how it reflects on the world of today, despite the fact he passed away more than forty years ago.
Seating will be limited, so please arrive early to secure a seat. You will not want to miss this opportunity to see the artwork of William Saroyan and listen to him reading some of his literary contributions to America and far more.
William Saroyan—author, Californian, Armenian—was incredibly popular in his lifetime. Writing about the immigrant experience and the human condition, Saroyan’s prose is just as accessible and relevant today as it was when he wrote it in the mid-20th century.
The exhibition opens on August 1 and runs through September 30 at the Saratoga Library, located at 13650 Saratoga Ave, Saratoga, CA 95070. Library hours are: Monday and Tuesday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The exhibit was curated by Chris Garcia and Dori Myer and will feature seventeen pieces by Saroyan from the 1930s and 1960s, as well as material relating to his career as playwright, screenwriter, and lyricist.
Saroyan created art throughout his life, beginning with geometric pencil drawings in the late 1920s and early 30s. These works, often drawn on Vanity Fair Florists stationary, reflect the Art Deco architecture and design of the time. By the late 1950s, he was creating watercolors and ink drawings. The forms he explored, line-based with an expressive color palette, were Abstract Expressionist in nature, exploring form and color theory while still maintaining a constrained presentation that spoke of his earlier works. Some point to his friendship with Manuel Tolegian, former travel partner of Jackson Pollock, as being key in helping define new styles in expressive painting.
In the world of journalism, Mark Arax stands out as a rarity. On one hand, he is a skilled investigative reporter who unearths secrets from the depths of shadow governments. On the other hand, he is a gifted writer whose feature stories and books are distinguished by the “poetry of his prose.”
His Los Angeles Times stories revealing state sanctioned murder and cover-up in California prisons were praised by The Nation magazine as “one of great journalistic achievements of the decade.” Fellow writers at PEN and Sigma Delta Chi have singled out the lyrical quality of his writing in award-winning stories on life and death in California’s heartland. In a review of his most recent book, “West of the West,” the Washington Post called Mark a “great reporter…. tenacious and unrelenting.”
Like the legendary Carey McWilliams, Mark digs deep in the dirt of the Golden State, finding tragedies hidden from most Californians. With equal passion, he chronicles the plight of both farm workers and farmers. His stories on the land are told from the close up of a native whose own family narrative is found in the same soil. His grandfather Aram’s first job in America was picking the fruits and vegetables of the San Joaquin Valley; his father, Ara, was born on a raisin farm outside Fresno.
Mark’s first book, “In My Father’s Name,” is a stirring memoir that weaves together the history of his Armenian family and hometown of Fresno with his decades-long search to find the men who murdered his father in 1972. A full-page review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review saw Mark’s journey to wrest the truth from his haunted past as a kind of “Moby Dick” struggle.
His second book, the bestselling “The King of California,” co-authored with Rick Wartzman, tells the epic story of the Boswell farming family and the building of a secret American empire in the middle of California. Named one of the top ten books of the year by the L.A. Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, “The King of California” won a 2004 California Book Award and the 2005 William Saroyan International Writing Prize.
His third book, a 2009 collection of stories called “West of the West: Dreamers, Believers, Builders and Killers in the Golden State,” received critical acclaim in the Atlantic Monthly and Los Angeles Times and a starred review in Publishers Weekly, which compared Mark’s “sure and supple essays” to the great social portraits of Joan Didion and William Saroyan.
“It is Arax’s personal connection to the land,” the review noted, “that pushes his collection past mere reportage to a high literary enterprise that beautifully integrates the private and idiosyncratic with the sweep of great historical forces.”
Mark’s newest book, “The Dreamt Land,” is being hailed by critics as one of the most important books ever written about the West.
“The Dreamt Land is the book Mark Arax was born to write. Nuanced, deeply researched, and profoundly personal, it offers, through its history of agriculture in California, a deep dive into the soul of the state,” said critic David L. Ulin. “Arax knows the territory; he has written about rural California for many years. This is his crowning achievement, a work of reportage that is also a work of literature. It belongs on the short list of great books about the state.”
A top graduate of Fresno State and Columbia University, Arax left the Los Angeles Times in 2007 after a public fight over censorship of his story on the Armenian Genocide. He has taught literary non fiction at Claremont McKenna College and Fresno State University. The father of three children, who lives on a suburban farm in Fresno.
The exhibit, “William Saroyan – The Painted Word” is organized by Forever Saroyan, LLC.
Forever Saroyan, LLC, was founded by Saroyan’s cousin, Charles Janigian, to preserve, protect, and honor the memories and legacies of the Saroyan and Minasian families. Although this is a privately funded family archive, we make our unique materials available to the world via their website and local exhibits, so that the next generation of scholars and enthusiasts will study and write about Saroyan and his family.