Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Human Comedy, by William Saroyan

(pb; 1943)

From the back cover:

"William Saroyan... introduces his readers to his warm and captivating story of an American family in wartime, and in particular to Homer Macauley, the fastest telegraph messenger in San Joaquin valley. The Human Comedy is filled with unforgettable scenes: Homer running 220 hurtles, little Ulysses imprisoned in a bear trap in Covington's store, the old-time telegraph operator Willie Grogan, with a bottle in the drawer to blur the sharp reality of the everflowing messages of love and hope and pain..."


Rambly and heart-warming, this novel about a small town during World War II is a welcome change in my reading list. Its kindness regarding people and their intentions -- even an armed robber is revealed to be a good man -- borders on anachronistic, but again, that's a welcome attribute.

Occasionally, the novel's rambling gets to be a bit much. I suspect Saroyan may have used this as a device to show (not tell) how news passes from townsperson to townsperson. All the same, it gets more irritating as the novel progresses.

That criticism aside, this is a good, innocent read.

The film version was released stateside on March 2, 1943.

Mickey Rooney played Homer Macauley. Frank Morgan played Willie Grogan (easily my favorite character). Van Johnson played Marcus Macauley. Donna Reed played Bess Macauley.

Clarence Brown directed, from a script by Howard Estabrook.

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