In this episode, we discuss the life and work of Chicago legend Nelson Algren, one of the most well known literary writers in America in the 40s and 50s who eventually fell into obscurity toward the end of his life. Algren is perhaps best known for his novels such as A Walk on the Wild Side and The Man with the Golden Arm, which won the first National Book Award for fiction in 1949. Algren also wrote short stories, articles, reviews, and poems including his iconic prose poem Chicago: City on the Make. Algren’s writings “focused on the poor, inspired by routine naturalism and its vision of pride, humor, and unquenchable yearnings. He captured the poetic essences of the city’s underside: its jukebox pounding, distinguishable stench, and neon glare.”
For this episode we are joined by Algren scholars Sue Rutsen and Richard F. Bales.
Sue Rutsen is a co-founder of the Nelson Algren Museum of Miller Beach, established in 2015. She has served as the president of Miller Community Fund since 2015. Employed since 1980 in the financial services industry, she has homes in Chicago and Miller Beach, Indiana.
Richard F. Bales is semi-retired after working more than 40 years in the real estate title insurance profession. The preeminent scholar on Algren’s lost works, Bales is the author of the recently published book The Short Writings of Nelson Algren: A Study of the Stories, Essays, Articles, Reviews, Poems and Other Literature. He lives in Aurora, Illinois.
Sue and Richard are interviewed by Nate King, Digital Content Associate at the American Writers Museum.
This episode is presented in conjunction with our exhibit American Voices, which you can explore online at https://nationofwriters.org/.