Never a Lovely So Real: The Life and Work of Nelson Algren

Never a Lovely So Real: The Life and Work of Nelson Algren

by Colin Asher


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“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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393357899
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/28/2020
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 893,633
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

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

Introduction xi

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

Morning 164

"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

Exile? 241

"OK, Kid, You Beat Dostoyevsky" 266

"How Long Docs This Sort of Thing Go On?" 286

Nonconformity 302

"Riding Day-Coaches to Nowhere" 323

"They Don't Exactly Give Me Any Medals for Caution" 343

A Walk on the Wild Side 354

A Lightless Cave off a Loveless Hall 366

IV Wander Years

"No, No Novel" 379

A Character Named Nelson Algren 395

Sea Diary 410

"On the Ho Chi Minh Trail" 420

The Last Carousel 437

"The Sanest Man I've Ever Met" 448

V Exile

Paterson, New Jersey 459

The Devil's Stocking 469

"The End Is Nothing, the Road Is All" 478

Afterword 485

Acknowledgments 489

Notes 493

Index 525

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