William Michaelian, 2007
|Born||May 20, 1956
|Occupation||Novelist, short story writer, poet|
William Michaelian, (born May 20, 1956) is an American novelist, short-story writer, and poet. Born in Dinuba, California, a small town southeast of Fresno, Michaelian grew up on his family's farm. He has lived in Salem, Oregon, since 1987. His stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in literary periodicals in the United States and Armenia; his work has been performed on Armenian National Radio. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Ararat (New York), a quarterly journal devoted to literary and historical work on Armenian subjects. He is also a contributor to the multilingual Armenian Poetry Project, curated and produced in New York by Lola Koundakjian. In 2003, he launched an open online literary dialogue, "The Conversation Continues", with John Berbrich, publisher and editor of the small press literary quarterly, Barbaric Yawp (Russell, New York).
Michaelian's work has been compared by reviewers to that of Walt Whitman, James Thurber, Samuel Beckett, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Analysis of contemporary human behavior, sympathy for the downtrodden, humor, satire, and a strong anti-war sentiment are hallmarks of his work. Much of his poetry and prose bears a lyrical, rhythmic quality; in many pieces, its visual appearance adds to this effect. Other influences include Richard Brautigan, Thomas Wolfe, Guy de Maupassant, and William Saroyan, the author's contemporary and grandmother's first cousin.
Michaelian has also published numerous drawings. Most are portraits of imaginary people with exaggerated emphasis placed on the eyes, which draw attention and help convey a range of emotion. A progressional study of the drawings on Michaelian's website reveals that his subjects have taken on a more sorrowful or troubled aspect over time. This is especially evident in the pencil drawings that accompany his Songs and Letters, a mostly autobiographical collection of poetry and prose he began in 2005.
Michaelian's website, "I'm Telling You All I Know", is an extensive archive that includes complete authorized versions of much of the author's work; autobiographical material that focuses on various periods of his life including the present; and reviews, commentary, family recipes, and hundreds of the author's drawings. The material is organized into departments; the purpose of each department is clearly defined in an introduction or preface. The site also contains works-in-progress which, when completed, are maintained for public access. Useful notes and background information pertaining to the author's print publications and other online publications are included on a news page.
A Listening Thing
A Listening Thing is the fictional first-person narrative of Stephen Monroe, a self-employed divorced man battling financial insolvency and emotional instability. Still in love with his ex-wife, Mary, and strongly attached to their teenaged son, Matt, Michaelian's main character struggles with guilt and low self-esteem toward a positive affirmation of himself. Encouraged by the discovery of an untapped talent and the growing hope of a rekindled relationship with Mary, Stephen grapples, often humorously, with the problems of daily life while seeking their root cause in society and himself. The novel focuses on a harrowing week that culminates in Stephen and Mary making the long drive to Stephen's hometown to visit Stephen's aging mother. The emotionally exhausting trip leads to the possibility of the couple's full reconciliation.
While the story can be enjoyed for its romantic element, humorous element, and Michaelian's careful treatment of its major and minor characters, the author uses his protagonist to address several major societal concerns. These include poverty and homelessness; the ongoing presence and threat of war; the shortcomings of public education; and social alienation. As a result, the story transcends its simple framework, and serves as a compendium of relevant contemporary observations, and as a compelling plea for understanding and self-exploration.
The novel was first scheduled for print publication in 2002. Michaelian published the work himself, however, in 2003, after publicly documenting the difficulties, business irregularities, and delays he experienced with the book's contracted publisher. The self-published edition can be found on his website. The title page includes a preface to the complete electronic text; the original cover art for the unpublished paperback print edition; promotional copy intended for the cover; and several short reviews. Since the author made the novel available, there has been an increase in demand for an unspecified number of review copies distributed by the publisher to the book trade prior to the time the publisher broke its contract. The original retail price for the book had been set at $14.95. According to the author, prices for a single review copy on Amazon.com have ranged from $33.00 to $707.00. In an explanatory note on the same site, he certifies the text in the review copies as authentic and complete.
- "What matters, I think, is this: There are an awful lot of nice, unhappy people in the world who are stuck doing things they really shouldn’t be doing. They’re stuck because their backs are against the wall and they don’t want to starve. They’re stuck because they didn’t know how to stand up for themselves when they were kids. They’re stuck because they were tested and branded and herded into classrooms by frightened adults who, often with the best of intentions, brainwashed them into thinking they were doctors, lawyers, insurance salesmen, teachers, electricians, customs officers, store clerks, or mechanics. They’re stuck because, once upon a time, long ago, the human race took a wrong turn somewhere, and we’ve been dealing with it ever since. Take it from me. I know. I’m stuck, too." (Stephen Monroe's indictment of the system, from Chapter 8 of A Listening Thing, 2003)
- "I have yet to read a great book, or listen to a great symphony, that hasn’t made me aware of the silence and suffering of the person who created it. Yet the result is always joyful. That is the miracle of art — that, and its ability to inspire and awaken others, if not to create their own art, then to live their lives and pursue their true vocations in an artful, creative, original way." (from "Mr. Sterne's Rocking Chair — An Interview with William Michaelian," Cosmopsis Quarterly, Fall 2007)
- "Living is the one true art. What varies is the forms of expression we choose, or that choose us." (from "The One True Art," from Introducing William Michaelian)
- A Listening Thing Electronic Text (2003)
- Among the Living and Other Stories. Musclehead Press. (2000)
- No Time to Cut My Hair Electronic Text (2002)
- Early Short Stories Electronic Text (2005)
- Winter Poems. San Francisco: Cosmopsis Books. ISBN 978-0-9796599-0-4 (2007)
- Another Song I Know. San Francisco: Cosmopsis Books. ISBN 978-0-9796599-1-1 (2007)
- Great Minds Think Alike. Poem included in the Collected Poems section of the author's website.
- A Map of My Heart. Yerevan, Armenia: Artasamanyan Grakanutyun. ISBN 99941-0-136-6 (2004)
- The Old Language. Yerevan, Armenia: Tigran Mets. ISBN 99941-917-1-3 (2004)
- One Hand Clapping Electronic Text (2003–2005)
- "A Map of My Heart." Ararat, Winter 2001.
- "Raintiger Biography". 2005. Retrieved 2007-08-28.
- The Armenian Mirror-Spectator, 5 January 2002.
- Scannell, Tim (2003). Among the Living and Other Stories, reviewed in Barbaric Yawp, June 2000
- Hoover, Danise (2003). "Booklist Review". Retrieved 2007-08-27.
- Bedikian, Lory. Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, reviewed in The Armenian Reporter, 2008-26-1.
- Bulger, Jason (2007). Cosmopsis Quarterly, Fall 2007.
- Michaelian, William (2006). "The Conversation Continues - William Michaelian and John Berbrich discuss William Saroyan". Retrieved 2007-08-29.
- The current page count is noted in the publication credits on the site's main page.
- Humphrey, Elizabeth King (2003). Reviewed in The Compulsive Reader. Retrieved 2008-18-01.
- Berbrich, John (2003). Reviewed in Barbaric Yawp, September 2003.
- http://www.williammichaelian.com/news/news.html Retrieved 2007-11-12.
- http://www.williammichaelian.com/book1/book1.html Retrieved 2007-11-12.
- http://www.amazon.com/dp/0887394701 Retrieved 2007-11-12.
- Author Site
- The Armenian Poetry Project
- Introducing William Michaelian
- Interview with John Berbrich
- "The Village in Our Blood" - fiction
- Armenian News Network - Groong
- Selected Armenian Literature