Nelson Algren Life

Bettina Drew, Author Putnam Publishing Group $27.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-399-13422-7
This is the first full-length study of one of the most tragic figures in 20th-century American literature. Algren, Chicagoan to the core, was a deeply committed, passionate writer whose finest work came out of his identification with America's downtrodden, the losers, whores, gamblers and bums with whom he surrounded himself for much of his life. A major figure among the leftist proletarian writers of the '30s and '40s, he watched in dismay as America changed to a conformist, timid country where he no longer felt at home; and he ended his life recycling material from his glory days, scrambling after magazine assignments and quarreling over dramatic rights and anthologies. Drew, who teaches at City College of New York, is in thorough sympathy with her ornery subject. She writes of him with compassion, understanding and a keen sense of the all-important social context of his writing--and, most important, makes you want to read the best of Algren again, instead of watching the inferior movies made from his work. The decline and death of a valuable native literary movement were encapsulated in Algren's life, and Drew has done both man and movement honor. (Oct . )
Reviewed on: 10/01/1989
Release date: 10/01/1989
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-292-75543-7
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