“Easily the best biography of the great Nelson Algren, and an extraordinary book in its own right.” Blake Bailey, author of Cheever: A Life
For a time, Nelson Algren was America’s most famous author, lauded by the likes of Richard Wright and Ernest Hemingway. But at the height of his career, he abandoned fiction and fell into obscurity. Colin Asher’s sublime biography of Algren unravels the enigma of his disappearance, explores the richness of his novels and nonfiction writing, and explains how a rash creative decision may have led his enemies to denounce him to the FBI during the Red Scare. Asher tells Algren’s story in rich, novelistic detail, including his long-term affair with Simone de Beauvoir and the emotional breakdown that nearly cost him his life. Drawing from interviews, archival correspondence, and Algren’s 886-page FBI file, Never a Lovely So Real portrays Algren as a dramatic iconoclast and reclaims him as a towering literary figure.
Colin Asher is an award-winning writer whose work has been featured in the Believer, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle. An instructor at CUNY, he was a 2015/2016 Fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography.
Table of Contents
I Becoming Someone is a Solitary Process
The Story of Isaac 3
Between St. Columbanus and the Wrought-Iron Gale of Oak Woods Cemetery 18
"Tell Your Tire Troubles to Nelson Abraham" 35
Stoic. Academic. Ink-Stained Wretch. 47
The Past Receded Like a Wave Just Spent 58
"So Help Me" 77
"What Is a Carpenter without His Tools?" 93
Somebody in Boots 98
The Crack Up 115
II The Chicago School
Two Forlorn Children 125
Trotskyists, Council Communists, and Mattickites 132
At Home in Rat Alley 144
"Do It the Hard Way" 186
The Anonymous Man 192
III Every Day is D-Day Under the EL
Exploring the Neon Wilderness 207
A Boy from the Provinces 223
"OK, Kid, You Beat Dostoyevsky" 266
"How Long Docs This Sort of Thing Go On?" 286
"Riding Day-Coaches to Nowhere" 323
"They Don't Exactly Give Me Any Medals for Caution" 343
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