Never a Lovely So Real: The Life and Work of Nelson Algren

W. W. Norton & Company
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This definitive biography reclaims Nelson Algren as a towering literary figure and finally unravels the enigma of his disappearance from American letters.

For a time, Nelson Algren was America’s most famous author, lauded by the likes of Richard Wright and Ernest Hemingway. Millions bought his books. Algren’s third novel, The Man with the Golden Arm, won the first National Book Award, and Frank Sinatra starred in the movie. But despite Algren’s talent, he abandoned fiction and fell into obscurity. The cause of his decline was never clear. Some said he drank his talent away; others cited writer’s block. The truth, hidden in the pages of his books, is far more complicated and tragic. Now, almost forty years after Algren’s death, Colin Asher finally captures the full, novelistic story of his life in a magisterial biography set against mid-twentieth-century American politics and culture.

Drawing from interviews, archival correspondence, and the most complete version of Algren’s 886-page FBI file ever released, Colin Asher portrays Algren as a dramatic iconoclast. A member of the Communist Party in the 1930s, Algren used his writing to humanize Chicago’s underclass, while excoriating the conservative radicalism of the McCarthy era. Asher traces Algren’s development as a thinker, his close friendship and falling out with Richard Wright, and his famous affair with Simone de Beauvoir. Most intriguingly, Asher uncovers the true cause of Algren’s artistic exile: a reckless creative decision that led to increased FBI scrutiny and may have caused a mental breakdown.

In his second act, Algren was a vexing figure who hid behind a cynical facade. He called himself a “journalist” and a “loser,” though many still considered him one of the greatest living American authors. An inspiration to writers such as Hunter S. Thompson, Martha Gellhorn, Jimmy Breslin, Betty Friedan, Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo, Russell Banks, and Thomas Pynchon, Algren nevertheless struggled to achieve recognition, and died just as his career was on the verge of experiencing a renaissance.

Never a Lovely So Real offers an exquisitely detailed, engrossing portrait of a master who, as esteemed literary critic Maxwell Geismar wrote, was capable of suggesting “the whole contour of a human life in a few terse pages.”

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About the author

Colin Asher is an award-winning writer whose work has been featured in the Believer, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle. An instructor at CUNY, he was a 2015/2016 Fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography.

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Additional Information

Publisher
W. W. Norton & Company
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Published on
Apr 16, 2019
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Pages
560
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ISBN
9780393244526
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Literary Figures
History / United States / 20th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Novelist, essayist, and critic Frederic Tuten recalls his personal and artistic coming-of-age in 1950s New York, a defining period that would set him on the course to becoming a writer.

Born in the Bronx to a Sicilian mother and Southern father, Frederic Tuten always dreamed of being an artist. Determined to trade his neighborhood streets for the romantic avenues of Paris, he learned to paint and draw, falling in love with the process of putting a brush to canvas, and the feeling it gave him. At fifteen, he decided to leave high school and pursue the bohemian life he’d read about in books, a life of salons and cafes and “worldly women” from whom he could learn and grow. But, before he could, he would receive an extraordinary education, right in his own backyard.

My Young Life is the story of those early formative years where, in the halls of Christopher Columbus High School, and later the City College of New York, Frederic would discover the kind of life he wanted to lead. As Tuten travels downtown for classes at the Art Students League, spends afternoons reading in Union Square, and discovers the vibrant scenes of downtown galleries and Lower East Side bars, he finds himself a member of a new community of artists, gathering friends, influences—and many girlfriends—along the way.

Frederic Tuten has had a remarkable life, writing books, traveling around the world, acting in and creating films, and even conducting summer workshops with Paul Bowles in Tangiers. Spanning two decades and bringing us from his family’s kitchen table in the Bronx and the cafes of Greenwich Village and back again, My Young Life is an intimate and enchanting portrait of an artist’s coming-of-age, set against one of the most exciting creative periods of our time.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The inspiration for the major motion picture Rebel in the Rye

One of the most popular and mysterious figures in American literary history, the author of the classic Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger eluded fans and journalists for most of his life. Now he is the subject of this definitive biography, which is filled with new information and revelations garnered from countless interviews, letters, and public records.

Kenneth Slawenski explores Salinger’s privileged youth, long obscured by misrepresentation and rumor, revealing the brilliant, sarcastic, vulnerable son of a disapproving father and doting mother. Here too are accounts of Salinger’s first broken heart—after Eugene O’Neill’s daughter, Oona, left him—and the devastating World War II service that haunted him forever. J. D. Salinger features this author’s dramatic encounters with luminaries from Ernest Hemingway to Elia Kazan, his office intrigues with famous New Yorker editors and writers, and the stunning triumph of The Catcher in the Rye, which would both make him world-famous and hasten his retreat into the hills of New Hampshire. J. D. Salinger is this unique author’s unforgettable story in full—one that no lover of literature can afford to miss.

Praise for J. D. Salinger: A Life
 
“Startling . . . insightful . . . [a] terrific literary biography.”—USA Today

“It is unlikely that any author will do a better job than Mr. Slawenski capturing the glory of Salinger’s life.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“Slawenski fills in a great deal and connects the dots assiduously; it’s unlikely that any future writer will uncover much more about Salinger than he has done.”—Boston Sunday Globe
 
“Offers perhaps the best chance we have to get behind the myth and find the man.”—Newsday
 
“[Slawenski has] greatly fleshed out and pinned down an elusive story with precision and grace.”—Chicago Sun-Times
 
“Earnest, sympathetic and perceptive . . . [Slawenski] does an evocative job of tracing the evolution of Salinger’s work and thinking.”—The New York Times
In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter.  How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir.  In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his  cash.  He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and , unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented.  Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away.  Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.

Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless's short life.  Admitting an interst that borders on obsession, he searches for the clues to the dries and desires that propelled McCandless.  Digging deeply, he takes an inherently compelling mystery and unravels the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.

When McCandless's innocent mistakes turn out to be irreversible and fatal, he becomes the stuff of tabloid headlines and is dismissed for his naiveté, pretensions, and hubris.  He is said  to have had a death wish but wanting to die is a very different thing from being compelled to look over the edge. Krakauer brings McCandless's uncompromising pilgrimage out of the shadows, and the peril, adversity , and renunciation sought by this enigmatic young man are illuminated with a rare understanding--and not an ounce of sentimentality. Mesmerizing, heartbreaking, Into the Wild is a tour de force. The power and luminosity of Jon Krakauer's stoytelling blaze through every page.
A Pulitzer Prize–winning, #1 New York Times bestseller, Angela’s Ashes is Frank McCourt’s masterful memoir of his childhood in Ireland.

“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy—exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling—does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father’s tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.

Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank’s survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig’s head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors—yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.

Angela’s Ashes, imbued on every page with Frank McCourt’s astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic.
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