Posts tagged “nelson algren”
March 28, 2013
Our 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).
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.
January 26, 2010
From the article “Good Nudes From My Naughty World” by Art Shay, at Swans Commentary:
“It’s quite a rear,” The New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik gushed. “The picture was taken in 1950 by, of all people, an American — the photographer Art Shay — in, of all places, Chicago, where Beauvoir was canoodling bilingually with Nelson Algren.”
To be singled out by The New Yorker as one “of all people, an American” who shot the picture in “of all places, Chicago” makes me feel like Ingrid Bergman stumbling upon Humphrey Bogart who as Rick says, “of all the gin joints in all the towns of the world, she walks into mine” while Dooley Wilson tinkles out “As Time Goes By” on the pleasantly off-key piano.
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.
May 21, 2009
Following up on Nelson Algren Live from this April, we present two pieces of footage from the event at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. In the first, Barry Gifford reads from Nelson Algren’s recollections of Margo, the prostitute and junkie who inspired the character Mary-Beth in the uncompleted novel Entrapment. In the second, Willem Dafoe takes on the role of Blackie Cavanaugh, welterweight Chicago boxer, from Algren’s haunting 1939 story “The Lightless Room.” Click the title of this post to see both clips.
May 5, 2009
“Thanks for caring about Algren,” [Dan] Simon said before hanging up the phone… I don’t think it’s about wanting people to read Algren; it’s about needing them to. Read an Algren book. Then, walk around Skid Row and try to look away from those desolate eyes staring back; or, try to watch any war on TV and remain unaffected; just try to ignore that dope-sick junkie nodding on the corner. You won’t be able to. Because you won’t be disconnected from them; you’ll be one of them. —from Divergence
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 9, 2009
Jan Herman’s blog “Straight Up” talks at length about arts, media, and culture news “with ‘tude.” Herman is the author of A Talent for Trouble, Cut Up or Shut Up, and the editor of Brion Gysin Let the Mice In and the Something Else Yearbook, among others. Herman waxes rhapsodic on Nelson Algren, finds the hidden parallels between William Burroughs and the blockbuster “Watchmen” film, and Sammy Davis, Jr.