The LA Times on the legacy of Nelson Algren

The LA Times on the legacy of Nelson Algren

April 28, 2009

David Ulin, book editor of the LA Times, on Nelson Algren Live—and, more generally, on Nelson Algren:

Art Shay… took the most iconic shots of the author, black-and-whites of him playing poker or peering through barroom windows, pictures so gritty you can almost feel the dirt rise off the frame. These photos, as much as anything, are responsible for Algren’s image as “the poet of the Chicago slums,” yet they also cast him in amber: a midcentury figure, smoking a cigar, eyebrows raised behind round glasses, turning over another card. Sixty years after winning the first National Book Award, for his 1949 novel of addiction, “The Man With the Golden Arm,” Algren has become vestigial enough that discussions of a national celebration were scaled back after, as [executive director of the National Book Foundation Harold] Augenbraum notes in an e-mail, “we concluded that though his writing continued to resonate, the number of his readers and his currency among the general reading public had diminished.”

So what, exactly, is Algren’s legacy? That’s the question the Steppenwolf event means to raise.

For the full article, check here at the LA Times. And to see why everyone is talking about Nelson Algren in this centennial year, take a long, hard look at our Algren list, including The Man with the Golden Arm, Never Come Morning, The Neon Wilderness, the newly-published Entrapment, and many more.

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