Posts tagged “man with the golden arm”
May 18, 2011
Nelson Algren was very much like John Steinbeck. Both were from families of modest means, both came across the harsh realities of their fellow human beings and those who had missed out on the American dream. But where Steinbeck wrote of migrant workers with a poetic optimism, Algren wrote of urban dwellers with a naturalistic pen. Like Stephen Crane’s Maggie, Algren’s Francis Majcinek is the victim of forces he cannot control, and is resigned to a tragic fate.
July 30, 2009
The problem with a writer like Nelson Algren — a writer who’s at once so good and so inexplicably forgotten — is this: how do you get readers to remember how good he is? We’re talking about a writer whose core beliefs include the statement that “I can see no purpose in writing about people who have won everything” — but in America in the 1950s, the book-buying public had won everything, and Algren — and the seething, fantastic underbelly of America he chronicled — faded from their sight.
But the double review of Entrapment and Other Writings in Stop Smiling is a hopeful sign. From Beth Capper:
. . . Algren comes out swinging with prose so shattering that it makes the whole read worthwhile. Such writing demonstrates that the America Algren canonizes is both nostalgic and ever-present, as though if you scrubbed hard enough at the sidewalk on Chicago’s Division Street — now lined with fashionable boutiques, cafes and condos — you might see the scuffed heels of the prostitutes he was so fond of writing about. . . his word on Chicago has become the final one.
June 11, 2009
. . . Editors Brooke Horvath and Dan Simon, of Seven Stories Press, are like the racetrack “stoopers” Algren wrote about in the story “Stoopers and Shoeboard Gazers.” Just as stoopers walk around the track, looking for winning tickets thrown out by mistake, Horvath and Simon have combed through Algren’s old papers, hoping to find unpublished gems. What they find, instead, is a written record that Algren’s talent persisted long after his desire to use it burned out.
For more from the article—and for some of our thoughts on it—take a look at the rest of this post.
April 28, 2009
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. —David Ulin at the LA Times
Tags: art shay, articles, barry gifford, Dan Simon, david ulin, don delillo, man with the golden arm, nelson algren, nelson algren live, neon wilderness, never come morning, russell banks, steppenwolf
April 16, 2009
April 2, 2009
Algren was able to write with the voices of the forgotten, the people living on the fringes of society, in a time when no one wanted to hear those voices . . . Some fans of Algren may romanticize the down-and-out lives he depicted–the addicts, prostitutes and small-time criminals–as the “salt of the earth.” But they would be as wrong as the civic leaders who would have preferred that Algren shut up.