portrait of this blog's author - by Stephen Blackman 2008

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Nelson Algren birthday 'Walk on The Wild Side' - Lou Reed


It’s the birthday of Nelson Algren (1909). Born Nelson Algren Abraham to working-class parents in Detroit, he grew up in Chicago’s immigrant neighborhoods. He wrote his first story, “So Help Me,” during the Great Depression while he was working at a gas station in Texas. His life — and work — changed dramatically after he was caught stealing a typewriter and spent five months in jail. His later novels and stories would feature the down-and-out, the loser, and the rejected. He became known as a writer of Chicago. He wrote, “People ask me why I don’t write about nature or the suburbs. If a writer could write the truth about one Chicago street, that would be a good life’s work.”

In A Walk on the Wild Side (1956), set in the world of pimps and prostitutes in New Orleans, Algren gives his three rules for life: “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.” The novel is, in many ways, about the contempt of a nation for its dispossessed, and in it he wrote, “When we get more houses than we can live in, more cars than we can ride in, more food than we can eat ourselves, the only way of getting richer is by cutting off those who don’t have enough.”

Nelson Algren, who said, “A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery.”

No wonder Lou Reed thought it a good title for a song and clearly he had read Algren's classic novel.

Live at Farm Aid 1985


Frank Gerryts said...

Thanks for this. Interesting to discover the background to the Lou Reed song, and to a little known song from a forgotten pub rock band Meal Ticket. Their song “Code of the Road” starts with the same advice on card playing and restaurant choices. I wonder if other elements of the song are also derived from the same book?


Andy Swapp said...

Wow a stranger!! ha ha ha ha . . . . . .thanks for dropping by Frank most welcome and good points well made. Do drop by again and I will try n have tea and cake ready!