Happy Birthday, Nelson Algren

March 28, 2013

AlgrenNelson_smallerOur longtime readers will remember that Seven Stories Press derived its name from the seven authors whose works were the foundation of our catalog from the outset. We love each and every one of our authors, but we hold a special place in our heart for the late Nelson Algren, the brilliant author of The Man With the Golden Arm, The Devil’s Stocking, and much more, whose death in 1981 left a hollow place in American literature. He was born on March 28th, 1909, and today would have been his 104th birthday.

Born Nelson Algren Abraham in Detroit, Algren wrote his first story, “So Help Me,” in 1933, and won his first award–an O. Henry prize for his short story “The Brother’s House”–two years later, in 1935. The same year, he also published his first book, Somebody in Boots, which he later disowned, saying that it was politically naive. Algren is certainly best known for The Man With the Golden Arm, which won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1950 and was adapted into a film starring Frank Sinatra in 1955 (which Algren abhorred).

Throughout his career, Algren remained fixated on stories of the downtrodden members of society and those pushed to its fringes; his work is densely populated with failures, has-beens, and outcasts. The Man With the Golden Arm‘s protagonist, Freddie Machine, is a prime example, having been worn down by the slow march of time into a morphine addict trapped in a marriage of false obligation. His powerful, raw writing earned him the respect of his contemporaries: Kurt Vonnegut, Ernest Hemingway, and others.

Algren’s influence continues to be felt in American literature today, whether through the writing of his friend Terry Southern, the Chicago Tribune‘s Nelson Algren Award, or the many writers like Peter Plate whose sensibilities have been deeply informed by this master of fiction. Seven Stories Press proudly continues to publish Algren’s works, keeping in print a classic voice that should never go unheard.

To browse Seven Stories’ complete Nelson Algren collection, click here.

Check out an portrait of Nelson Algren on The Believer by Colin Asher here.

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