Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren

A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren. Hardcover published by Neville Spearman 1958.

I’m a massive fan of Nelson Algren, to the point that I’m willing to write that I think the first half of Never Come Morning (another title by him) is possibly some of the best stuff, I’ve ever read.  I’m also happy to let you know that I’ve read it more than once and that Lefty Bicek remains one of the most vivid literary creations that I have ever encountered.  Once you know lefty, you don’t forget him.  A Walk on the Wild Side is another great title but I have to confess that i’ve only read it the once and it was a long time ago, so my memory of it is a little bit hazy. 

Nelson didn’t write a lot of stuff, but what he did write has left numerous fans hanging on his every word.  I remember ready an introduction to a paperback reissue of one of his books where Kurt Vonnegut writes about taking Salman Rushdie to meet the man himself… Rushdie was in total awe, I think Vonnegut was a friend of Algrens.  Lou Reed’s epic song is named after this particular title and I’m fairly certain that Tom Waits has referenced and mentioned Mr Algren as well. 

There’s a 1962 film of A Walk on the Wild Side which has a very young Jane Fonda in it.  I have seen it but it was a long time ago and to be honest it didn’t grab me at the time.  Maybe I need to revisit it… possibly after a reread of the book.  I’m pretty certain that Nelson wasn’t very happy with the film and then when they* made The Man with the Golden Arm he vowed to never have anything to do with Hollywood again.  There’s a great biography by Bettina Drew which details a lot of Algrens unhappiness particularly with Hollywood.  (TMWTGA is a better film… but the ending was considerably altered… Algrens books never end with things looking up.)  

So this particular copy of this book has a very worn dust jacket.  When I write “very worn” I mean VERY worn.  What I’m most amazed about is that it does still have a dust jacket, worn or otherwise.  Within a week of finding this copy, I found another but it doesn’t have a dust jacket.  To find two Nelson Algren titles within a week is pretty strange… maybe not for other booksellers but here at Huc & Gabet we find this sort of thing rarely.  So I’ve written about this book because I think it’s another great title by an outstanding author that if you haven't read any of, you should.



  1. Hi, Robin,

    Nice blog, and since you are a massive fan of Nelson Algren, I'd like to share a few things:

    1) You probably already know this, but just in case it may have slipped by: Lefty Bicek, in addition to being the hero of Never Come Morning, is also the subject of one of Algren's best short stories entitled "A Bottle Of Milk For Mother." The story is a true gem; and it was this story that was my first encounter with Algren's writing, and which led to the fact that Nelson Algren is my favorite American writer.

    2) There is a bit of a "cosmic coincidence" that involves me and my ex-wife. While we were married, we used to make a weekly visit together to the Public Library. I used to check out novels and short stories by Nelson Algren, and she used to check out books by Simone de Beauvoir. It was not until years later, after we were divorced, that I discovered that Nelson Algren and Simone de Beauvoir had had a long running affair.

    P.S. I will make a point of checking out your eBay auctions

  2. Hi there,
    Thank for the comments. Very strangely i have only just managed to sell this book... yesterday. You've probably read the biography by Bettina Drew, if you haven't, it's worth checking out. It has lots of information re Nelson and Simone.
    All the best