Nelson Algren’s 1956 novel A Walk on the Wild Side made a mockery of the American dream. Set among the pimps, whores and con men of New Orleans, it was a brave - and prescient - exposé of the nation’s contempt for its own people, says Richard Flanagan.
Nelson Algren’s own irreparably American life tends to read like a novel by Nelson Algren. Compounding the impossible wrath of the gods was the impossible nature of the man born Nelson Algren Abraham in Detroit, 1909.
“A man who won’t demean himself for a dollar is a phoney to my way of thinking,” Algren wrote in a letter in late middle age, an opinion consistent with the young Algren’s conviction, taken from Whitman, that he belonged with the “convicts and prostitutes”, believing that in humiliation and degradation was to be found truth. The truth mattered to Algren, but it didn’t help.
“Thinking of Melville,” wrote Algren at the height of his success, “thinking of Poe, thinking of Mark Twain and Vachel Lindsay, thinking of Jack London and Tom Wolfe, one begins to feel there is almost no way of becoming a creative writer in America without being a loser.”
No comments yet.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.