Never A Lovely So Real
REVIEW by Willard Manus
Nelson Algren was one of Americas best novelists, the author of such memorable works as The Man With the Golden Arm and A Walk on the Wild Side. His rewards for those and many other literary accomplishments? One major critic called him the bard of the stumblebums. Another dismissed his work as puerile sentimentality. Algren was also hounded by the FBI for 28 years, ripped off by lawyers, publishers, literary agents and Hollywood producers, and died forgotten and bitter in 1981.
Now a new
biography of Algren has been published, NEVER A LOVELY SO REAL, which
hopefully will remind the world of his stature and win its respect again.
Written by Colin Asher, the book paints a graphic picture of a novelist
whose subjects were people on the margins of society, those whose lives
were full of larceny and arson, sodomy and simony, boosting, hijacking
and shootings in sudden affray; blackmail and terrorism, incest and pauperism,
embezzlement and horse theft, tampering and procuring, abduction and quackery.
the Party for a while and although he eventually resigned his membership
for ideological reasons, he essentially remained a proletarian writer
for the rest of his life. That was his strength and glory, really, but
it came up against changing tastes in literature. Just as painters
were moving away from realism and toward abstract expressionism, writers
were abandoning social novels in favor of technique-driven
works that placed more emphasis on metaphor, irony, and paradox than on
research, compassion, or story. A books relevance no longer mattered
to many reviewers, and the quality of Nelsons work that had earned
him the greatest praise for 21 years of his career was suddenly a liability,
his home city of Chicago and moved to Paterson, New Jersey to be closer
to where Carter was incarcerated--and to write a novel about him. Algren
worked for several years on the book, putting everything he had into it,
only to be devastated by rejections from Doubleday and Random House. The
only offer to publish came from a minor company which wouldnt pay
more than fifteen thousand bucks for the rights. Algren deemed the offer
insulting; consequently The Devils Stocking was not
published during his lifetime.