Nelson Algren is one of the best-known Chicago authors having written such notable works as The Man With the Golden Arm, A Walk on the Wild Side and Chicago: City on the Make. He is attributed with influencing the writing of Studs Terkel, Mike Royko and Stuart Dybeck who all share his love of the city and its vernacular.
His family moved from Chicago’s southside to the northside neighborhood of Albany Park where he spent his formative years. Though he was essentially from a middle class Swedish/Jewish family he was known for writing gritty stories of working class Poles and the experiences of other immigrant individuals and others down on their luck trying to to make good in a society the author felt was rigged against them. Algren was also known for his famous love affair with author Simone de Beauvoir, very nearly stealing her away from existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre.
Today’s program featured a documentary produced by Michael Caplan, also from Albany Park which debuted at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2015. The film was skillfully comprised of interviews with several of Algren’s friends and confidants including Studs; as well as excerpts from letters, and photos from the author’s own collection.
The free screening was presented in the neighborhood for the very first time at Tortuga’s Latin Kitchen on Lawrence just west of Kedzie.
The program was attended by about 150 people including a few of our Authors Showcase Book Club members and was preceded by a selection of readings from Algren’s prose-poem Chicago: City on the Make and a few original Chicago themed poems by local poets.