Nelson Algren’s two books of travel writing describe his journeys through the seamier side of the international social and political landscape of the mid-1960s. Algren at Sea brings both books together in one volume on the centenary of Algren’s birth.
Aboard the freighter Malaysia Mail in Notes From a Sea Diary, Algren offers a gritty account of his time among his down-and-out fellow sailors and the underground port life of Kowloon, Bombay, Pusan—yet an account softened by his discussion of Hemingway, Hemingway’s attitude toward the world of literature (and the world of literature’s attitude toward Hemingway), and the role of a writer in modern America.
Who Lost an American? takes us on a whirlwind spin from the world of the New York literary scene to Dublin, Crete, Paris, Seville, and more, with Algren commenting on everything from Simone de Beauvoir to bullfights to Playboy key clubs to the death of Brendan Behan—and, as always, Chicago, Algren’s eternal touchstone of American brutality.
One of America's best loved writers, Nelson Algren won the first National Book Award for Fiction in 1950. But his star faded following harassment by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI during the McCarthy era and changes in literary fashion. Now there's a Nelson Algren revival going on. Colin Asher's epic biography Never a Lovely So Real: The Life and Work of Nelson Algren arrives from Norton in April and is already receiving rave reviews from the likes of the New Yorker.
Seven Stories publisher Dan Simon's essay in the current Nation details why Nelson Algren matters so much—not just as a literary figure, but for us all, right here, right now. According to Simon, Asher's biography "delivers a wrenching portrait of a man who struggled to maintain his sanity and his spirit in a society that was well prepared to see its writers give up or sell out, but struggled to comprehend writers who persevered and paid the price as Algren did."
And speaking of right here, right now, take 75% off all e-books by Algren on the Seven Stories website. Click on any of the books below, or check out the collection right here.
Algren and Kurt Vonnegut were good friends, having taught together at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1965–7. See Malcolm Jack's piece in today's New York Times on the 50th Anniversary of Slaughterhouse Five.