Nelson Algren Abraham
From Illinois Authors
Pen Name: Nelson Algren
Born: 1909 in Detroit, Michigan
Deceased: 1981 in Long Island, New York
Celebrated on the Illinois State Library, Gwendolyn Brooks Building
"I do know that when you have a book underway and are working well that you fell much better abour your own relationship to the world, and the way to feel good all the time is to always have a good book going" - Nelson Algren
Nelson Algren was raised in Chicago, educated in Chicago's public schools, and he studied journalism at the University of Illinois.
Biographical and Professional Information
Nelson Ahlgren Abraham was born in Detroit, but he grew up in Chicago in a poor immigrant neighborhood on the South Side. His parents moved there when he was three. Algren was educated in Chicago's public schools, graduating in 1928. He studied journalism at the University of Illinois, taking his B.A. in 1931.
Algren combined subjects drawn from street life with an eloquent, poetic style in a series of novels and short stories, many of which were set in Chicago's Polish communities. His early books include Somebody in Boots (1935), Never Come Morning (1942) and the short-sotry collections, The Neon Wilderness (1947). The Man with a Golden Arm was a great popular success and became a successful Hollywood film starring Frank Sinatra in 1956. A Walk on the Wild Side was also filmed in 1962. Algren also wrote the prose poem Chicago: City on the Make (1951).
Between writing Somebody in Boots and Never Come Morning, Algren wrote short stories and worked intermittently on the W.P.A. Illinois Writers' Project.
In 1937 Algren married Amanda Kontowicz, whom he had met at a party celebrating the publication of his first novel; they divorced, remarried and divorced again. During WW II Algren served as a private an an U.S. Army field artillery unit and then as a medical corpsman and was eventually stationed in France. This experience Algren used in several of his short stories, which appeared in a wide variety of publications, starting from Noble Savage to Playboy and Esquire. Algren's financial situation improved for a period when he was aided by an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and by a grant from Chicago's Newberry Library.
Algren made his breakthrough at the age of 41 with The Man with the Golden Arm. The work received the National Book Award and Algren was invited to Hollywood to write the screenplay.
In 1965 Algren married Betty Ann Jones. He taught creative writing at the universities of Iowa and Florida, and regularly wrote a column for the Chicago Free Press. Algren moved to Long Island in September 1980 and died there of a heart attack on May 9, 1981.
- The Man with the Golden Arm, Seven Stories Press, 2003
- A Walk on the Wild Side: A Novel , Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998
- The Neon Wilderness, Seven Stories Press, 2003
- Never Come Morning, Seven Stories Press, 2001
- Entrapment and Other Writings , Seven Stories Press, 2009
- Algren at Sea: Notes from a Sea Diary & Algren at Sea--The Travel Writings, Seven Stories Press, 2009
- The Devil's Stocking, Seven Stories Press, 2006
- Somebody in Boots: A Novel (Classic Reprint Series), Thunder's Mouth Press, 1987
- Neon Wilderness (Avon 424), Avon, 1952
- The Devils Stocking, The Arbor House Library, 1983
Titles for Purchase and at Your Library
A Walk on the Wild Side: A Novel
Release Date: 1998-06-24
Never Come Morning
Release Date: 2001-11-09
Entrapment and Other Writings
Release Date: 2009-05-05
In 2010 Nelson Algren was inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.
National Book Award, The Man with the Golden Arm
In 1990, his name was engraved on the frieze of the Illinois State Library alongside other great Illinois literary figures.
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