For Your Consideration

I think I’ve said before that one of my favorite quotes from literature is the famous passage from Nelson Algren‘s A Walk on the Wild Side: “Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom’s. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.” I heard the passage before I knew it was Algren’s, indeed before I knew there was such a person as Algren. I certainly didn’t know about his career as a writer, and the first time I heard of The Man with the Golden Arm, I confused it with a James Bond movie. (In fairness, I was nine when the Bond flick came out, while Algren’s book and the subsequent movie were before my time.)

Algren

Nelson Algren

But even if I didn’t know the man or the work, I heard something in those sentences and that voice that resonated, and if someone asked me the difference between hard-boiled and noir (which I hope doesn’t happen, as folks have talked the issue to death — to no one’s satisfaction), I think I’d point to that passage as an example of the latter.

What called all this to mind was that Norton has published Colin Asher’s new bio of Algren, Never A Lovely So Real. At the New Yorker, Jonathan Dee (a novelist and prof at Syracuse) offers a review that makes me think the bio is worth checking out.

Meanwhile, as I begin to think of my summer reading, I find myself interested in reading some of the writers who influenced my influences. Specifically, I think I may try diving into John O’Hara (Mr. Block is a fan) and Irwin Shaw (cited frequently by William Goldman, including in the semi-autobiographical The Color of Light.) (Side note: Shaw and Algren were apparently both more-or-less blacklisted during the Red Scare era.) And maybe it’s time to re-read Algren as well.

John_O'Hara

John O’Hara

Irwin_Shaw

Irwin Shaw

That’s one of the nice things about my line of work — whether I’m teaching or writing, there’s always a reason to read something cool.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Education, Literature. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to For Your Consideration

  1. Shaw’s WW2 novel, The Young Lions, was impressive back then, but I don’t know that it’s likely to have aged well. His later novels were rather ordinary bestseller stuff. I always felt his short stories were his most impressive and enduring work. Sailor Off the Bremen, The Girls in Their Summer Dresses, The Eighty-Yard Run—those and others linger in the mind, fifty-plus years after I read them.

    Lawrence Block *At Home in the Dark * *A Time to Scatter Stones * http://lawrenceblock.com/ Twitter: @LawrenceBlock Our Guarantee: No infinitives were split during the transmission of this message. _______________________________

    • profmondo says:

      Thanks for the heads-up, LB. I read “Eighty-Yard Run” years ago — likely in my teens — and I recognize the title “Girls in Their Summer Dresses” as well. I’ll look for a collection of shorts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s