April 8, 2009
For anyone who attended the performance of Nelson Algren Live on Monday: no recap is necessary; you’re going to remember it for the rest of your life. For those who couldn’t make it, here’s this review in the Chicago Tribune:
In “The Lightless Room,” the newly discovered Nelson Algren masterpiece read in public for the first time ever at the Steppenwolf Theatre Monday night, we meet an ill-fated boxer, Blackie Cavanaugh. He was played by Willem Dafoe, no less, who wisely let the words do the fighting on lines like: “Then it was just me and the big cool dark and no wind near at all.”
“I couldn’t tell you straight,” says Blackie’s manager in the story, “if he was a contender or a bum.”
… The ubertext of “Nelson Algren Live,” a literary evening that had the great Don DeLillo happy merely to read little bits of narration, and featured the truly delicious casting of Martha Lavey as Simone de Beauvoir? Algren spent a life writing about others and kept this hitherto-unpublished story hidden, because Blackie Cavanaugh, a gaping, emotional, closed, taciturn wound, was far too much like himself.
I’m sold. Algren had to run because he was always at the center of an American paradox, Chicago truth.