Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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With an afterword by Studs Terkel

Algren's classic 1947 short story collection is the pure vein Algren would mine for all his subsequent novels and stories. The stories in this collection are literary triumphs that don't fade away. Among the stories included here are "A Bottle of Milk for Mother," about a Chicago youth being cornered for a murder, and "The Face on the Barroom Floor," in which a legless man pummels another man nearly to death—the seeds that would grow into the novel Never Come Morning.

Also collected are the World War II stories that found their final expression in the novel The Man with the Golden Arm, as well as “So Help Me,” Algren’s first published work, and "The Captain Has Bad Dreams," in which Algren first introduced the character of the blameless captain who feels such a heavy burden of guilt and wonders why the criminal offenders he sees seem to feel no guilt at all. And then there is "Design for Departure," in which a young woman drifting into hooking and addiction sees her own dreaminess outlast her hopes.

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“Algren's short stories are now generally acknowledged to be literary triumphs.”

“When I first read The Neon Wilderness I was knocked out and the funny thing is, as I re-read it I was KO'd again. That's the thing: Nelson's stories are part of our lasting literature. They don't fade away.”

“Since the publication of The Neon Wilderness … Nelson Algren has been acknowledged as a master of that American Realism touched with poetry, which attempts to give voice to the insulted and injured. He is a philosopher of deprivation, a moral force of considerable dimensions and a wonderful user of the language.”

“Once more I have been impressed by Algren's talent, his probity, and his command of a tough language that he transforms into a raw and bleeding poetry.”

“Mr. Algren, boy are you good—one of the two best authors in America.”

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One of the most neglected of modern American authors and also one of the best loved by those who know his work, Nelson Algren (1909–1981) believed that “literature is made upon any occasion that a challenge is put to the legal apparatus by conscience in touch with humanity.” His own voluminous body of work stands up to that belief. Algren’s powerful voice rose from the urban wilderness of postwar Chicago, and it is to that city of hustlers, addicts, and scamps that he returned again and again, eventually raising Chicago’s “lower depths” up onto a stage for the whole world to behold. Recipient of the first National Book Award for fiction and lauded by Hemingway as “one of the two best authors in America,” Algren remains among our most defiant and enduring novelists. His work includes five major novels, two short fiction collections, a book-length poem, and several collections of reportage. A source of inspiration to artists as diverse as Kurt Vonnegut and Donald Barthelme, Studs Terkel and Lou Reed, Algren died on May 9, 1981, within days of his appointment as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.