Algren: A Life by Mary Wisniewski

Frank from Administration suggests Algren: A Life by Mary Wisniewski.

Algren Book CoverNelson Algren was one of the most important yet underappreciated American authors of the Twentieth Century. He wrote about what he knew and what he knew was life on the fringes of society. And more than any other writer, Algren knew Chicago. “Like loving a woman with a broken nose,” he wrote, “you may well find lovelier lovelies, but never a lovely so real.”

In her fascinating biography, Algren: A Life, Mary Wisniewski illuminates this brilliant, enigmatic Chicagoan whose own turbulent “life on the fringes”—drinking, gambling, womanizing—led to some of the most memorable and powerful works in American literature.

Algren maintained through the years a torrid, on-again/off-again love affair with French feminist writer and philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir, herself in a relationship with existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. “On the outs” with Algren when he died in 1981, de Beauvoir refused thereafter to visit his grave on Long Island. She was buried in Paris alongside Sartre five year later, wearing Algren’s ring.  Algren: A Life by Mary Wisniewski is a fascinating book.

Haven’t read anything by Nelson Algren? Start here!

The Man with the Golden Arm
Widely regarded as Algren’s most powerful and enduring work, this novel chronicles war veteran and hustler “Frankie Machine’s” downward spiral into an ever-deepening morphine addiction.
The Neon Wilderness
A collection of short stories giving voice to the insulted and injured, to those at the rough edges of society struggling to make ends meet while playing a losing—often fixed—hand.


Chicago: City on the Make
A social document and a love poem, Chicago: City on the Make is a bold, hard-hitting ode to this “most real of all” cities. Studs Terkel said it’s “the best book about Chicago.”
A Walk on the Wild Side
With its depictions of the downtrodden prostitutes, bootleggers, and hustlers of Perdido Street in the old French Quarter of 1930s New Orleans, this novel packs a wallop. As Algren admitted, the book “… wasn’t written until long after it had been walked.”
Nonconformity: Writing on Writing
Editor Daniel Simon assembles into this brief but compelling work Algren’s previously unpublished credo of his craft. Algren identifies the essential nature of the writer’s relation to society and shares his deepest beliefs about the state of literature and its role in society.