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A Walk on the Wild Side
by Nelson Algren

With its depictions of the downtrodden prostitutes, and hustlers of Perdido Street in the old French Quarter of 1930s New Orleans, A Walk On The Wild Side has found a place in the imaginations of all the generations that have followed since. As Algren admitted, it "wasn't written until long after it had been walked...I found my way to the streets on the other side of the Southern Pacific station, where the big jukes were singing something called Walking The Wild Side of Life. I've stayed pretty much on that side of the curb ever since."
      He continues: "The book asks why lost people sometimes develop into greater human beings than those who have never been lost in their whole lives. Why men who have suffered at the hands of other men are the natural believers in humanity, while those whose part has been simply to acquire, to take all and give nothing, are the most contemptuous of mankind."


Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (1 of 16), Read 51 times, 1 File Attachment Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Friday, February 15, 2002 12:12 PM When some of you guys reported problems finding a copy of A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE, I was reminded of this section from the foreword in my copy by Russell Banks (a fine piece of writing, which I'd say is in itself almost worth the price of admission): It shouldn't surprise me that Nelson Algren, clearly one of the best novelists of his time, is not much read these days. It's the "kill the messenger" syndrome, I suppose, for the news that Algren's work brings us is not good news: if the world he describes is at all like our own, then it's not morning in America, and it hasn't been for a long, long time... Which may be the reason we'd rather leave Algren unread on the shelf, him and the writers he springs from: Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, Frank Norris, Richard Wright, Sherwood Anderson. We want to think them irrelevant, because if they're not, if the truth they have to tell about America still holds, then we're in deep trouble, friend, so we better kill the messenger. Having never read any Algren myself, I guess I was expecting a sort of urban version of THE GRAPES OF WRATH...spare, gritty, intense narratives about the disenfranchised, told in traditional episodic form, i.e. scene by scene. What I found in WILD SIDE, though, absolutely blew my mind. First and foremost, to me, the story is a VOICE. A loud, boisterous, hilarious, outrageous, apocalyptic, cynical, loving, and authentically American voice with such power and control that I can't get enough distance to dissect it technically and figure out how he does what he does. It's less like a traditional narrative than a force of nature, and, as Banks observes elsewhere in his foreword, Algren is kin in some ways to Twain and Wright and Crane in that regard. To me, the style is somewhere between a Bunyan-esque tall tale and a jazz or blues riff, and I'm especially struck by his clear love and respect for the poor immigrants with shady pasts who came over from the British isles (in other words, my family), though he cuts them little slack for their foibles and failures. Anyway, to boil it down, I'm in love with this writer and this book and look forward to hearing you folks' comments. Onward! >>Dale in Ala. NALGREN.JPG (13KB) Algren
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (2 of 16), Read 47 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, February 15, 2002 01:06 PM I was expecting something like William Burroughs, not this long, loopy, almost poetic panegyric to the underclass. At times I was blown away. At times I wanted to put a plug in his mouth. Enough already. But what a reading experience. Amazing. Ruth "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money." Moliere
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (3 of 16), Read 46 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, February 15, 2002 01:27 PM I like that Dale, he is a force of nature. Banks says how "theres a combination of layered and compressed writing(a truly rare combination of virtues; writers usually have one or the other)that reminds me of Eudora Welty and William Kennedy at their best." I agree with him on this. It is rare to find a writer with the expertise in this kind of combination. Its like cooks, they are either bakers or savoury-unusual that a cook can do both well. I think we have seen a trend of the compressed in fiction/poetry for so long...it is mind blowing to read a writer like Algren today. He is everything that contemporary philosophy/and product about writing has not offered. ****** First page: "He's just a pore lonesome wife-left feller," the more understanding said of Fitz Linkhorn, "losin' his old lady is what crazed him. "That man is so contrary," the less understanding said, "if you throwed him in the river he'd float upstream." For what had embittered him Fitz had no name. Yet he felt that every daybreak duped him into waking and every evening conned him into sleep. The feeling of having been cheated-of having been cheated- that was it. Nobody knew why or by whom. But only that all was lost. Lost long ago, in some colder country. Lost anew by the generations since. He kept trying to wind his fingers about this feeling, at times like an ancestral hunger; again like some secret wound. It was there, if a man could get it out into the light, as palpable as the blood in his veins. Someone just behind him kept turning him against himself till his very strength was a weakness. Weaker men, full of worldly follies, did better than Linkhorn in the world. He saw with eyes enviously slow-burning. "I ain't a playin' the whore to no man," he would declare himself, though no one had so charged him. Six-foot-one of slack-muscled shambler, he came of a shambling race. That gander-necked clan of which Calhoun and Jackson sprang. Jesse James' and Jeff Davis' people. Lincoln's people. Forest solitaries spare and swart, left landless as ever in sandland and Hooverville now the time of the forests had passed. Whites called them "white trash" and Negroes "po'buckra." Since the first rock had risen above the moving waters there had been not a single prince in Fitzbrian's branch of the Linkhorn clan. Unremembered kings had talked them out of their crops in that colder country. That country's crop were sea-sands now. Sea-caves rolled the old kings' bones. Yet each king, before he had gotten the hook, had been careful to pass the responsibility for conning all Linkhorns into trustworthy hands. Keep the troublemakers down was the cry. ******* That is the father of the protagonist in Walk On The Wild Side, I laugh when I think of how p.o'd the Fitz sounds even into the narrative...what kind of a son does he have?
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (4 of 16), Read 45 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, February 15, 2002 01:30 PM Ruth, I recommend reading at least a few pages of Algrens Chicago:City on The Make. He was a rapper before there were rappers...it is jive, rap, beat and sheer beauty and hilarious poetry. He nails cops to husbands to the kid next door...everybody's on the make baby. Algren definitely had a pulse, and his finger on everybodys.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (5 of 16), Read 47 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, February 15, 2002 04:09 PM These comments have gotten me fired up for this read, particularly yours, Dale, because you have never, ever steered me wrong on a book when you are all bubbly over it like this. My copy didn't arrive today. Maybe tomorrow. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (6 of 16), Read 44 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, February 15, 2002 05:15 PM You have no idea how surprised I am you haven't read this book Steve, you're such a player I thought you have memorized this one...I know you walk it though...
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (7 of 16), Read 49 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Friday, February 15, 2002 05:31 PM I just about died laughing at the cawfee-man scene. If this guy didn't write lyrics for blues songs, then he ought to have. Sherry
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (8 of 16), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Saturday, February 16, 2002 11:17 AM Ruth: "Long, loopy, almost poetic panegyric to the underclass" really nails it, I think. I believe the invoking of poetry is very apt, because the last couple of days I've been trying to connect in my brain why Algren reminds me vaguely of Kerouac and I think the difference is the poetry, or lack thereof. For my taste, Kerouac had the energy and maybe the vision and certainly the, ah, cojones to do the big-American-voice deal, but I could never connect with his work emotionally because I think he had no ear for lyrical language. (I'm making this up as I go, so I stand open to being corrected.) Algren, grim as his subject sometimes is, is awash in beautiful language, and I love it. Candy: I, too, was struck by Banks mentioning Eudora Welty and the combination of "layered" and "compressed" writing. I have a general, instinctive idea what he's talking about, and I'm hoping you guys can help make it more specific for me. The book that comes first to my mind is Welty's THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM, which is another tall-tale-on-amphetamines that I admire a great deal. Sherry: Blues lyrics, for sure. There are whole sections of this story that could easily take place inside a blues song. Algren sure had a grasp of the genre, and a sense of humor besides. Steve: Well, thanks, buddy. I hope I can keep up my winning average of recos with this one. I look forward to hearing your reaction to WILD SIDE. Dick, Robt, & Lynn: Hope you can join us for this outing. I've gotta hunch it's gonna be a good one. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (9 of 16), Read 32 times Conf: Reading List From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, February 16, 2002 11:59 AM I plan to get cracking on this one today, barring interruptions from the rest of life... Lynn
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (10 of 16), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, February 16, 2002 10:16 PM Dale and all, As most of you, I grew up hearing stories of the GREAT DEPRESSION from my parents. My father's father was a tenant farmer during the 30's, and my mother wasn't much better off. My parents talk about being poor, but they also talk about the basic goodness of everyone during that time. This novel seems like the story of the lowest of the low. They cheat and hurt each other whenever possible. These people are illiterate, crippled, maimed (some physically, all emotionally). The final scene has some overtones of Oedipus. Sherry, I loved the cawfee-man passage as well. That mosquito sure did add to that "love" scene. Jane
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (11 of 16), Read 23 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Sunday, February 17, 2002 02:46 PM Algren's characters here sure come up with unconventional "words to live by," don't they? So far, I think my favorite is this one from Terasina, who runs the chili parlor: "It is lucky to love any time, for then you have someone to live for," Terasina thought, "but if you are not in love that is lucky also. Because then you have no problem." Jane: I grew up hearing my grandparents' tales of the Great Depression, too. When the economy hit bottom, they had been married for about a year and a half, had a newborn daughter, and my grandfather had just lost his job as a machinist's helper at the coal mine. Eventually he was able to sign on with a W.P.A. crew to build highways. Because he was the youngest guy on the crew and had no experience with manual labor except farming, they gave him a quick first-aid course and assigned him as the crew's "medic," complete with regulation black doctor bag. My grandmother says he was so embarrassed by carrying the bag that when he walked to the job site each morning he took a long detour through the woods, so his friends wouldn't see him and call him "Doc." Ah, the "good old days." >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (12 of 16), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Sunday, February 17, 2002 09:35 PM Dale, That is interesting that it is your grandparents and my parents who talk about the depression. I am only three or four years older than you. My parents were in their thirties when they had me, so maybe that explains it. ************Spoiler***************** Isn't it interesting that Dove headed back to Terasina even after he had raped her. What makes him think that he will be welcome there? Jane
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (13 of 16), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, February 17, 2002 11:13 PM >>What makes him think that he will be welcome there? Pure unadulterated fool male egotism. Ruth "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money." Moliere
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (14 of 16), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Monday, February 18, 2002 02:11 AM Ruth: I am not the Official Language Police, but still I have to observe that your phrase "Pure unadulterated fool male egotism" is a redundancy to the fifth power. Moderation, please. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (15 of 16), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: John Chapman jm_chapman@msn.com Date: Monday, February 18, 2002 10:38 AM My mother told me that W.P.A. stood for "We Poke Along!".
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (16 of 16), Read 3 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Monday, February 18, 2002 12:33 PM I haven't read anything quite so much like Suttree since I read Suttree. It's hard to believe that this book is, relatively speaking, buried and forgotten outside American Literature seminars. It provides a much truer picture of Depression-era America than, say, The Grapes of Wrath, at least based on the stories I've heard from my own Oklahoma roots where W.P.A. was damn fine work if you could even get it. And the writing is downright Faulkneresque with the attention to dialogue, dialect and local color (although, refreshingly un-Faulkneresque in it's story-line; sometimes a straight line is good). Could it be the sex and the slaps upside the head of religion that brought it low? Could it be it was the kind of book that made the U.S. look bad in the hands of communist, race-mixing agitators? Nah. Couldn't be. Anyway, good pick. Good book. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to have sex in rocking chairs." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (17 of 22), Read 24 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, February 18, 2002 05:50 PM UPS: Feb 18, 2002 03:25:00 PM DAVENPORT IA US ARRIVAL SCAN Feb 18, 2002 11:34:00 AM CACH IL US DEPARTURE SCAN Feb 18, 2002 05:13:00 AM CACH IL US ARRIVAL SCAN Feb 15, 2002 07:14:00 AM BURTONSVILLE MD US DEPARTURE SCAN Feb 14, 2002 11:06:00 PM BURTONSVILLE MD US ARRIVAL SCAN Feb 14, 2002 10:37:00 PM BALTIMORE HUB MD US DEPARTURE SCAN Feb 14, 2002 05:05:20 PM BALTIMORE HUB MD US ORIGIN SCAN Feb 14, 2002 05:01:48 AM US BILLING INFORMATION RECEIVED Feb 13, 2002 08:14:07 PM NEW CASTLE DE US SHIPPED So as I wait, I read all of the excerpts at amazon.com. I note that in his lay sermon, ole Fitz Linkhorn makes reference to my very favorite of Christ's various miracles: "'And when they wanted wine'" --he put down a mocker who wanted to know what caused the bulge on his hip--"'the mother of Jesus saith unto him, "Give them wine." Satan didn't claim Jesus' mother 'count of wine, ah reckon he won't claim me 'count of a half-pint of busthead." Now this warmed my heart because I can't tell you how many times I've said the very same thing, although I phrased it differently. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (18 of 22), Read 23 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Monday, February 18, 2002 08:48 PM Gosh darn, Steve, You should have ordered this book from THE TATTERED COVER, because they have it right there on the shelf. Dick, I take exception to your statement that this is what the depression was like. Maybe all of the stories I have heard from my family were cleaned up, but I don't think so. Family members worked side by side from sunrise to sunset in order to put some food on the table. Algren's people seem to relish putting one over on someone, and they try to avoid real work. Someone mentioned that this book reminded them somewhat of Kerouac. That is what I thought when I started reading the novel. Jane
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (19 of 22), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 01:39 AM Oh oh, oh, Dick and Jane. (Hey, wow, now that sounds familiar) There are lots of Depression stories. Some like Algren's, some like yours, Jane, some like my parents'. And all of them are true. Slooping on over to the poetic thing again, did anyone else catch the paragraph where Algren's writing actually has rhyme and meter? All I've added here are line breaks. I haven't changed a word: "When opening time was closing time and every one was there, down where you lay your money down, where it's everything but square, where hungry young hustlers hustle dissatisfied old cats and ancient glass-eyed satyrs make pass at bandrats; where itís leaping on the tables, where itís howling lowdown blues, when itís all bought and paid for then thereís always one thing sure: its some do right Daddy-O running the whole show." Ruth "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money." Moliere
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (20 of 22), Read 13 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 06:46 AM There are lots of places like that, Ruth. I'm not finished yet, but I was going to write one up when I did. I should have guessed you'd beat me to it. This is not a book to be read quickly, or you'll miss some of those wonderful "poems". Sherry
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (21 of 22), Read 10 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 09:16 AM Dick: This book does have a SUTTREE-esque feel, doesn't it? I agree, it's a shame it's not more widely read. I was struck by what Banks had to say about Algren's interaction with the public, which surely couldn't have won him many establishment friends, literary or otherwise: Algren, in person, was a lot like his books--large-hearted, funny, angry, lonely. He told truth to power wherever he met power (and he saw it where most people preferred to see only good intentions gone awry, which made him no friend to bourgeois academics and intellectuals: he trusted a brutal racist Chicago cop more than a suburban Republican banker). To those of us who loved him, he could sometimes seem perversely self-defeating: he was unable to resist any chance to tweak the beard of somber authority. Sounds like my kind of guy, but it couldn't have been good PR for his career. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (22 of 22), Read 5 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 10:20 AM As for the early migratory route of the Linkhorns, Cookson Hills is in far eastern Oklahoma. I knew where that is. Arroyo, Texas, is clear down near Brownsville. For some reason, I was under the impression it is in west Texas. (A little geographical note.) Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (23 of 39), Read 35 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 11:49 AM " he was unable to resist any chance to tweak the beard of somber authority." Today, what with the Bush administration and all, the poor man would wear himself to a frazzle. (Ever looked up 'frazzle'?) pres
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (24 of 39), Read 35 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 11:58 AM There are more spots with both rhyme and meter, Sherry? Maybe I was reading too fast, because I missed them. Ruth "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money." Moliere
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (25 of 39), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 12:58 PM I should have marked them. But I'll go give it a look in a minute. I'm sure there were more, since I found myself reading in a sing-song lilt several times. Sherry
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (26 of 39), Read 34 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 01:15 PM I finished this yesterday and couldn't help but compare it to a weird dream, where scenarios suddenly change and are seemingly unrelated. Dove brought out my maternal instincts, for some reason. Things just seem to happen to him. This guy just doesn't have a clue as to the meaning of the word 'consequences.' But, to me, the jewels of this book were the prostitutes. Beej
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (27 of 39), Read 34 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 01:30 PM I love them too, Beej. I am so glad yu picke dthis book up! Dick, Algren wrote a review of Suttree in the Chicago Tribune Book World in 1979ish.(any body find it on-line? I was trying...) I read this years before stumblng onto Suttree, and when I read S I was like, wow, he must have been into Algren... Jane, really enjoyed your perspective on your familys stories. I would not venture to say that this book wasn't intended to reflect ALL of the depression era or victims or all "walks-of-life"(sheesh, I can't believe I resorted to that phrase, heh.) I thik it really is about the so-called lowest-of-the-low...and not all of them are so low...some have some energy still despite the knocks.??? I think even though Dove is a well, he goes about things maybe the hard way/long way but he has so much energy...???Lifeforce??? I am swamped with work right now...having a hard time getting time to log on...back ina bit....
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (28 of 39), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 02:57 PM Have this one in hand now and am well into it, making the acquaintance of Kitty. Nonetheless, Candy, Dove is a problematic character. I didn't read the first two liaisons with Terasina as rape (as Jane apparently did). However, there's no question about the final episode with her just before he takes off. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (29 of 39), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 03:13 PM I didn't read the first as rape, either, Steve. But if the second wasn't, it was damn close. And the 3rd was. Ruth "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money." Moliere
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (30 of 39), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 03:15 PM I read it as only one rape, too. Beej
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (31 of 39), Read 25 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 06:18 PM Due to time constraints I wasn't going to read this one, but peek at the discussion. I found the discussion interesting so I got the book. I only read the first few pages and am hooked!! So I will read it, but may not be able to participate in the discussion, but thank you all for interesting me in this author, he's a real find. Sherri Not all who wander are lost - Tolkien
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (32 of 39), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2002 01:00 PM There are lovely passages in this thing. I am going to resist transcribing any because once I started, it would get to be too much. That description of Louisiana when Dove first sets eyes on it out the door of the railroad car is perfect--the "pale shifting veil" over the landscape. Part One ended with a bang, I thought. I loved the stretch on the "Do-Right Daddies" in New Orleans (Shriners, Kiwanians, Legionaires, Knights of this, Knights of that, Moose, Elks, Woodmen, Lions, Thirty-Third Degree Owls, Forty-Fourth Degree Field Mice). With all due respect for any lodge members present. And the great topping for this was the turtle's monologue, ending with a hook into Part Two. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (33 of 39), Read 19 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2002 02:05 PM Steve: And by golly, you gotta love the turtle man's philosophy of life... For I never knowingly harmed a fellow creature unless he got in my way. I never took unfair advantage unless it profited me. Well, sure. Sounds fair to me. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (34 of 39), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2002 02:50 PM It is comforting to know that we can trace the dominant political theme in America today to the gutters of the Depression. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (35 of 39), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2002 04:21 PM Oh, but Dale, then I have to add the lines just before that (in the spirit of Dick's remarks): True, I ate well. But that was only to keep up my strength for the sacrificial ordeal of my days. After falling from the top of the pile, the turtle dies at the bottom. . . . .and Bing Crosby sings I Ain't Got Nobody. Gawd, I loved that! Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (36 of 39), Read 13 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2002 06:01 PM Steve: Yes, a brilliant sequence altogether. To coin a phrase, "The horror! The horror!" The more I read and cogitate on this, the more kinship I see (thanks, Candy!) with Cormac McCarthy. True, Cormac is a force of nature unto himself and has taken this line of inquiry on a different tangent, the satire a little less social and more existential than Algren's, but both share the darkly, DARKLY comic, outrageous, almost hallucinatory kick-in-the-pants that suddenly resolves itself, on my radar-scope, at least, into revealed truth as regards our own daily lives. Perhaps a writer of the next generation who pushes the envelope of voice and free-association this mightily will someday give us a rematch between the turtles of AWOTWS and The Judge of BLOOD MERIDIAN, with a soundtrack containing Crosby and...what song, for The Judge's dance? Let the wagers begin... {G} >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (37 of 39), Read 8 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Thursday, February 21, 2002 06:53 AM Dale, you ought to go into the business of thinking up scenarios for thesis themes. Can't you imagine some senior in American lit going wild with Cormac and Nelson? That turtle scene is about the most vivid in the book to my mind. And what a warped genius it took to link the political commentary to it. Did you read in the Russell Banks introduction about the check for $62.50? The turtle scene and that check story seem to give you an idea of Algren's personality. I loved Banks' last comment about nobody asking him to invite a speaker again. Sherry
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (38 of 39), Read 5 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Thursday, February 21, 2002 08:00 AM Sherry: I'm still in awe of the turtle scene, too. Somehow I can just see Cormac beaming over this section of it: Dove felt another's eyes watching the growing pile: down on the floor beside him a severed terrapin's head, big as his own hand, stared cataleptically at its own body slipping and flipping up the distant heap. It could be no other's body, for it alone matched the king-sized head that stared with faith unshakable. Stepping on the stumps of a hundred bleeding necks, hauling itself over other backs, giving one a kick there and one a shove there, the body sent a dozen rival climbers sprawling over the cliff to failure. Dove and the Head watched together to see if the body would make it... Gosh, it doesn't get much better than that. I loved the story about Algren's lodging reimbursement, too. And immediately signing the check over to Banks. I wonder how many times in Algren's life he must have used the phrase, "the principle of the thing"? I think Pres is right, though. If Algren were still around today, he'd need a full-time staff just to tweak all the beards of somber authority that are multiplying around us daily. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (39 of 39), Read 8 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, February 21, 2002 08:04 AM Stepping on the stumps of a hundred bleeding necks, hauling itself over other backs, giving one a kick there and one a shove there, the body sent a dozen rival climbers sprawling over the cliff to failure. In a way, doesn't this describe the characters in this novel? Beej
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (40 of 42), Read 19 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, February 21, 2002 11:21 AM That, too, definitely, Beej. The turtle thing leads beautifully into what I called the "hook" at the end of Part One. Regarding Dove: He didn't yet know that there was also room for one more at the bottom. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (41 of 42), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, February 21, 2002 04:13 PM Did anyone else think Algren cut the women in this book a lot more slack than he did the men, with the exception of Kitty Twist? Beej
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (42 of 42), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, February 21, 2002 05:46 PM Actually, I thought he rendered Kitty as a pretty charming rogue, too. I know that there are critics who charge Nelson Algren with subscribing to the myth (apparently an endemic American male myth) of "the whore with the golden heart." Obviously, I have not read enough of his work to comment, but this may explain what you perceive as his cutting slack to these female characters--he had a soft spot for the type. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (43 of 53), Read 31 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, February 22, 2002 03:59 PM I found the section of sexual attraction between Dove and Terrisina bittersweet. It was so sad that she was so messed over by her first sexual experience. I loved it tthat she was teaching Dove to read. And there are parts of their encounters that are sad because up in her room when they are kissing...well...she was happy to be with him. but it seemed as if her utter horror of sex prevented her from finding a love. Dove was definitely not world aware enough to see her complexities. But I love the description of how his kiss starts as a boys and turns into a mans. It is also sad that there was sucha problem for Terrisina with the age difference. But I can also understand how she really would benefit from a more mature man in her life.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (44 of 53), Read 32 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Friday, February 22, 2002 06:54 PM FYI: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/156584422X/qid=1014422088/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/103-5077216-2234235 pres
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (45 of 53), Read 29 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Friday, February 22, 2002 10:08 PM Candy, I liked that Terrasina was teaching him to read as well. The women that Dove really fell for were the two that taught him to read. I have already forgotten the name of the prostitute that he moved in with for a time. She is the one who completed his reading lessons. I, too, loved the turtle scene. It made me think of the Myth of Sisyphus with the constant climbing to the top of the heap. I noticed that the bloody scene didn't do anything to curb Dove's appetite. Jane
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (46 of 53), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, February 23, 2002 12:36 AM I just re-read the section with Terasina. It's odd...it's funny how we have noticed that Dove raped her...but call me crazy, I think it was far worse what her husband did to her. THAT was rape. Doves seemed almost like revenge. Not that it wasn't rape I know know rape is rape. But if he and her were switched. If it was a thirty year old man and a sixteen year old girl...welll. I mean, Teresina had some problems. I think she was mixed up on one level and took advantage of a boy. She had that religious paranoia going on. She also had some good ethical beliefs too...but wasn't she too tough on Dove for giving that money to his brother? Why didn't she make him work it off. She was so damaged herself that she couldn't see that this kid was all of a sudden on a high from hooking up with her...he was showing off in front of his brother. He was wrong to take the dollar, but not so terribly bad...hmmm? But I don't mean to say it wasn't rape when he went back and confronted her and said mean things. She was also mean to him though. If I am disgusted with any man in her life, it's the one that worked her over on her wedding night.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (47 of 53), Read 26 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Saturday, February 23, 2002 05:29 PM Candy, this early section concerning Dove and Terasina was very interesting and very well done, I thought. I'm glad you addressed it a bit more in this note. Both characters are appealing ones. I've been thinking about it a good deal, pondering why this rape did not cause me to completely lose sympathy with the character of Dove in this novel. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (48 of 53), Read 24 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Sunday, February 24, 2002 12:19 PM Ruthie, here's another one: Out in the lake-palmed suburbs, far from the dong and the glare, in a house that had once been human, Dove climbed a soundless stair. And now I find as I read on that Dove Linkhorn evolves into the depression-era equivalent of Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (49 of 53), Read 23 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, February 25, 2002 12:21 PM heh heh Dirk Diggler...what an amazing! movie that was.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (50 of 53), Read 24 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, February 25, 2002 01:29 PM Which brings me back around to the issue of who is the more disgusting, the apparently more upright citizens who pay to look through a peephole and watch a young woman "lose her virginity" or Dove and the two or three prostitutes who put on these shows? There can't be must question about where Nelson Algren comes down on this. The upright citizens come out on the short end of this assessment, and the big difference is their hypocrisy. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (51 of 53), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Monday, February 25, 2002 09:25 PM Steve and all, Dove was 16 at the beginning of this book and was 18 at the end. It seems like he passed through a whole life time of experiences during those two years. He seemed much older from the time he got to New Orleans. Dirk Digler is a good comparison. Dove was definitely the young stud. Jane
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (52 of 53), Read 19 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, February 25, 2002 09:33 PM Dove was definitely the young stud. Yep. And because of that, and because she was so restless, and in spite of the rape, I'll bet you anything Terasina takes him back. Granted, her husband was a fruitloop, but I just about died laughing when I read that he approached her on their wedding night, solemn faced and goose-stepping, naked as a jaybird (even more naked than a jaybird, since he was completely hairless!) except for a helmet. Beej
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (53 of 53), Read 19 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, February 26, 2002 09:45 AM I thought Algren did a great job of portraying how Finnerty hooked these young women into the business and made them dependent on him. Not that I have any real expertise in this, but it had the ring of truth to my ear, particularly his ploy of playing Frenchy and Reba off against each other with this promise of buying the chicken farm upstate someday. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (54 of 67), Read 25 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2002 10:39 AM I'm getting down to the very short strokes on this one. At the risk of engaging in hyperbole, I really do think that Dove Linkhorn is one of those quintessential American fictional characters that can be mentioned in the same breath as Huckleberry Finn, Holden Caulfield, Dean Moriarity, Jay Gatsby, and the like. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (55 of 67), Read 29 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2002 12:15 PM Steve: Dove as quintessential, definitely. I get the feeling that when you look up "hapless" in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Dove. Does anyone else here see a kinship with one of my favorite characters, Harrogate, in Cormac's SUTTREE? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (56 of 67), Read 26 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2002 03:36 PM Dale, you mean he of the pumpkin patch? Definitely. Sherry
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (57 of 67), Read 26 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2002 03:43 PM Sherry: Actually, watermelon patch. But I feel sure ol' Harrogate would settle for a pumpkin, in a pinch. Probably less chance of one them big ol' red waspers doing you-know-what, besides.{G} >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (58 of 67), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2002 03:48 PM How could I forget, yes, watermelons! Can't you just see the two of them giving away cawfee-pots together? They'd make a great team. Sherry
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (59 of 67), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2002 10:04 PM Dale, I mentioned how I was struck by similarities in tone to Suttree back up a ways. Subsequently, I decided I was also getting major whiffs of Nathaniel West and of The Magic Christian. I agree that Dove is a quintessentially American character and would further opine that A Walk on the Wild Side is one of those fundamental bricks in the wall of American literature. I'm still more than slightly stunned that this book is not considered "bigger" -- or perhaps I'm just stunned that I've passed over such a "big" book for so long. Anyway, something has stunned me here. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (61 of 67), Read 19 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Thursday, February 28, 2002 09:41 AM Dick: Yes, I remember. In fact, it was your invoking of SUTTREE that got me thinking along the Harrogate line. Nathanael West! There's another kindred writer, for sure. (I haven't read Southern's THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN, only CANDY; sounds like I need to fix that gap.) There aren't many writers who can do humor that's so dark, dark, DARK that it somehow transcends itself and comes out the other side. There's a downright glee in Algren and West and McCarthy that's almost childlike. What a rush, to mainline scenes like these. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (62 of 67), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, February 28, 2002 10:31 AM Dale, I well remember Harrogate, too. He and Dove are certainly birds of a feather. My sentiments exactly, Dick. Just when one thinks that one is finally half-assed well read, one discovers an overlooked something like this. I enjoyed the little "rules of the road" in the underbelly of society that are continually laid down by these characters such as the one I quoted early on in the discussion: 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. Then near the end Algren uses them all to capture how hopeless these guys in jail are: If life was a cinch by the inch, they did it by the yard. They always found someone named Doc to play cards with. They went out of their way to eat in a place called Mom's. They slept only with women whose troubles were worse than their own. In jail or out, they were forever shaking someone else's jolt, copping somebody else's plea, serving someone else's time. They were unwired to anything. I loved that little touch. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (63 of 67), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, February 28, 2002 10:36 AM And by the way, I wonder whether Pastor Robert Schuller--he of the "Hour of Power" and the Crystal Cathedral--consciously stole "life is a cinch by the inch" from Nelson Algren. I think he ought to credit this book the next time he says that. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (64 of 67), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Thursday, February 28, 2002 12:05 PM Talk about synchronicity...just last evening Dick mentions Terry Southern in connection with Algren. This morning, I'm looking for a book I know is in my house/library, but which is suddenly missing...a tattered paperback that I bought used, ages ago, but have never read, titled CONVERSATIONS WITH NELSON ALGREN. Amazon says it's out of print, and no library in my vicinity has a copy. But I do find a copy of WRITERS AT WORK: THE PARIS REVIEW INTERVIEWS, published 1957, which happens to have a real gem of an interview with Nelson Algren. I get to the end of it, and guess who the interviewer is... Terry Southern! (Along with a guy named Alston Anderson, whom Google tells me is a black writer of short fiction, including the story "Lover Man.") This is getting downright spooky. If any of you have CONVERSATIONS at a library near you, I'm guessing it would be worth tracking down. So is WRITERS AT WORK. If anybody can't locate the latter and wants a photocopy of the Algren interview, let me know and I'll send one your way. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (65 of 67), Read 19 times Conf: Reading List From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Thursday, February 28, 2002 12:58 PM Dale, Another synchronicity is that Algren is also connected with Richard Wright. Robt
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (66 of 67), Read 19 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Thursday, February 28, 2002 01:15 PM Robt: Yes! Algren briefly mentions "Dick Wright" in the Paris Review interview, and I was assuming it's the same guy. To wit, Algren says: I think of a tragic example: Dick Wright. I think he made...a very bad mistake. I mean, he writes out of passion, out of his belly; but he won't admit this, you see. He's trying to write as an intellectual, which he isn't basically; but he's trying his best to write like a Frenchman. Of course, it isn't strictly an American-European distinction, the belly and the head; you find the same distinction here. A book like Ralph Ellison's, for example, or Peter Matthiessen's, stays better with me than the opposite thing, a book like Saul Bellow's. Bellow's is a book done with great skill and great control, but there isn't much fire. I depend more on the stomach. I always think of writing as a physical thing. I'm not trying to generalize, it just happens to be that way with me. Hmmm. Since this interview took place in 1955 or '56, after Algren's MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM won the first National Book Award and when A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE was written but not yet published, I'm wondering what specific books by these other writers he's referring to? (I haven't started NATIVE SON yet; for those who have, how would you respond to Algren's comments about Wright's style?) >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (67 of 67), Read 26 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, February 28, 2002 01:39 PM Very interesting comments, Dale. I must say that I think I know what he's talking about with regard to Richard Wright. I personally do not think Native Son is a very good novel. I hesitate to say that. I usually keep my negative opinions to myself. That novel is a huge historical artifact, of course, but I don't care for it strictly as a novel. There is some depth to the character of Bigger, but not much. The supporting characters are all paper cutouts. I think he is saying that Richard Wright, who was enamored of Marxism in his youth, fell into the trap of attempting to write European Naturalism in the sense of "regarding human behavior as controlled by instinct, emotion, or social and economic conditions, and rejecting free will, adopting instead, in large measure, the biological determinism of Charles Darwin and the economic determinism of Karl Marx," if you will forgive me quoting the book definition. The results to my way of thinking are what I described above. As for Ellison, he could only be referring to The Invisible Man, which I much prefer to Native Son. I have no idea what of Peter Matthiessen's he could be referring to. There were only two novels by him published at that time. However, Matthiessen was one of the founders of The Paris Review. Perhaps Algren was just sucking up. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (60 of 67), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: Joe Barreiro barreiro4@attbi.com Date: Thursday, February 28, 2002 02:37 AM Candy - I found a reference to Algren's review of Suttree, but the review itself is apparently not online. It was in the Chicago Tribune Book World of 28 JAN 1979, rather dully titled "A Memorable American Comedy by an Original Storyteller." Next time I go to the big library downtown I'll try to remember to look for it.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (68 of 72), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, March 02, 2002 03:30 PM >I usually keep my negative >opinions to myself. That always say a lot though. I like the difference between criticism and a negativeopinion. I think it wise if it is a personal issue to keep to oneself, but if it can be explored as a critical flaw that is a whole other ballgame. Sometimes I find the crossover between philosophical attitudes and personal taste enlightening. Steve, this following paragraph has really got me challenged and thinking...must mull for a bit on it...I like this Darwinism deal you've mentioned...very interesting to me regarding WOTWS. churning thoughts... > >I think he is saying that >Richard Wright, who was >enamored of Marxism in his >youth, fell into the trap of >attempting to write European >Naturalism in the sense of >"regarding human behavior as >controlled by instinct, >emotion, or social and >economic conditions, and >rejecting free will, adopting >instead, in large measure, the >biological determinism of >Charles Darwin and the >economic determinism of Karl >Marx," if you will forgive me >quoting the book definition. >The results to my way of >thinking are what I described >above. >
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (69 of 72), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Saturday, March 02, 2002 03:42 PM Oh, no! Dove Linkhorn ends up blind after that beating? Am I reading this ending correctly? How sad! And Candy, you might want to print off some of this shit I say and save it somewhere. I'm not going to be around forever, you know. Steve
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (70 of 72), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, March 02, 2002 03:47 PM don't worry, i have a bizarre almost photographic memory. I'm like an idiot savant. heavy on the idiot.
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (71 of 72), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Saturday, March 02, 2002 04:52 PM Yeah, Dove ended up blind or incredibly near-sighted, one or t'other. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: A Walk on the Wild Side, by Nelson Algren (72 of 72), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, March 02, 2002 05:06 PM Hell, he was pretty blind even before the beating. Ruth "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money." Moliere

 

 

A Transatlantic Love Affair: Letters to Nelson Algren by Simone De Beauvoir, et al

 
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