Papa You’re Crazy by William Saroyan. Little, Brown (1957), 165 pp.
Ten-year-old Pete has gone to live with his father in Malibu. The inability of the father, a prolific writer, to provide enough child support has triggered the move, which leaves his mother and younger sister in their own house a few miles away. He and his father get along fine. They race around on their bicycles, gather random stuff washed up on the beach, and eat odd low-cost meals. Mostly, though, they talk. Pete, a bright kid, has many questions on many topics. His father has offbeat answers, often based on the idea that his son will need to blaze his own trail in life.
And that’s about it. In contrast to his earlier semi-autobiographical novels, Rock Wagram and The Laughing Matter, Saroyan doesn’t offer much of an explanation for the collapse of the marriage. That’s due in part to the author’s decision to make Pete the narrator of the story. Though it sometimes strains credibility, the scheme generally succeeds. From the child’s viewpoint the most serious family problem is his sister’s annoying behavior. He doesn’t speculate about his parents’ break-up because they seem so congenial when the family gets together. He doesn’t feel threatened by his father’s lack of cash. So for Pete the plot, such as it is, focuses on the enjoyable activities and thought-provoking conversations with his father. His account has produced a fun read, and that is likely to be enough for many readers.