William Saroyan vs the Kindle – and Hollywood

William Saroyan won a Pulitzer Prize — which he refused to accept. And the author wrote a wonderful scene about books at a public library in his novel “The Human Comedy.”

But the scene is entirely different if you watch the movie.

Saroyan quarrelled bitterly with the film’s producers, and actually wrote a novel-version of the movie, after-the- fact, to try to make the story more hard-hitting. In the movie, the kindly librarian tells two little boys that she’s been reading books for more than 70 years.

“And it still isn’t enough time.”

Tonight I looked up the same scene in Saroyan’s book version. The two boys still visit the librarian, and she gives the same speech. But in the book, she only insists that she’s been in the world reading books for sixty years.

“And it hasn’t made one bit of difference!”

It’s a interesting counterpoint to the life of William Saroyan. His popularity declined, and he eventually funded a foundation to publish his works — possibly just to shore up his legacy. So it’s interesting what happens when you look for Saroyan ebooks for the Kindle.

You don’t find any.

But you do find a biography about his bittersweet life…

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