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The Man with the Golden Arm: 50th Anniversary Critical Edition Hardcover – November 9, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press; 50 Anv edition (November 9, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583220070
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583220078
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,106,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A true novelist's triumph. --Time

This is a man writing and you should not read it if you cannot take a punch....Mr. Algren can hit with both hands and move around and he will kill you if you are not awfully careful....Mr. Algren, boy, you are good. --Ernest Hemingway

A thriller that packs more of a punch than Pulp Fiction and more grittiness than either Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett. --Scotsman --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From the Publisher

11 1.5-hour cassettes --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

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Customer Reviews

Of that, you will be grateful.
Johnny Roulette
The prose, the writing, the characters, are unforgettable.
M. Meszaros
It turns out that the book is quite a good read.
Deb Oestreicher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Johnny Roulette on December 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
I don't know how I missed Algren, but I had never heard of him before I picked this book up. I only bought it because of the title. The darker days of my own youth have made me skeptical of books dealing with alcoholism and addiction. They never seem to get it right. This one nails it, seemingly without effort. Unlike other books of the genre, this one does not romanticize the ugliness it deals with. Frankie Machine's life is a tour through poverty, loveless marriages, addictions and hopelessness. It is not exaggerated. This is what it's really like. Algren's realism and intelligence make this one of the finest novels I've ever read. The details are so vivid and accurate that one has to wonder how many demons Algren shares with his characters. The Man With The Golden Arm is simply fiction mirroring life. It presents a side of life that many of its readers will never experience first-hand. Of that, you will be grateful. A combination of poor choices, bad luck, and lack of opportunity has overwhelmed the characters so completely that most of them don't know that they are already dead. I am a writer...this is one of those books that will always keep me humble. For most, their greatest achievement of words will never come close to to Algren's harrowing tome. Do not read this while distracted. It requires your full attention. It's that rich, that brilliant. This is not just a book about morphine, booze & the ghetto....it is a book of suffering, pain, betrayal, neglect & spite. Mr. Algren has been graceful enough to supply the compassion that most of characters seem to lack.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By M. Mazza on March 4, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The dimensional misery in which the novel's characters find themselves is poetically narrated. Since the novel was published in the late 40's, it belongs to an era where readers were patient enough to relish lengthy but poignant description. It's an alluring read that can prove rewarding to all those who ponder its painful subtleties. The characters' hopelessness may seem unbearable at times, but ironically, it is rendered in such beautiful prose that it easily illicits compassion and understanding from the reader. This alone makes it quite addictive. Frankie Machine and his cohorts (who never seem like cartoonish dregs, but actual people), embody what many would rather ignore: the reality of those who meet with constant disillusionment. The reader doesn't have to be from the "underbelly" of America to empathize with the book's main figures. In fact, Algren, through his melodic sentences of haunting sincerity, might even corrode the comfort of those who believe too strongly in the American Dream. Darkness and destitution have never exuded such truth and humanity.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "toxicomaniac" on February 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
I think this is one of the best novels ever written. People who say Algren romanticizes the poor have clearly not read the book properly, all he does is say they are human just as you. But describing them as low-lifes like some reviewers did, just shows that Algren's message did not come across. This book is about love for humanity. And that is ALL humanity, not just the part that's nicely educated and has a good job and doesn't rob you at night. One reviewer said that Frankie Machine should of just quit taking drugs and sought himself a nice job and everything would of turned out fine. How? Would Frankie be loved then, would his crippled wife be able to walk, would there be no loneliness and desperation. would it stop raining? Would it stop the El from going round and round? I'm sick and tired of people romanticizin' the rich.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Deb Oestreicher on December 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
I heard the title The Man with the Golden Arm long before I ever read the book or saw the movie. It's a beautiful, evocative title, but it also makes you think of something grotesque: a man with a shiny prosthetic. When I got older, and knew the story centered on a junkie, the connotation became even more disturbing: an arm jaundiced by the hypo. I was never much into addiction stories and Algren's book (purchased as a shiny new softcover back in the early 80s, when I was spending the greater part of my college loan money on the creation of a private library) sat on my shelf for more than 20 years.

It turns out that the book is quite a good read. Algren locates the source of dealer Frankie Machine's addiction in his WW2 service-he was wounded and got hooked on the morphine that eased the pain of his injury. The novel also makes clear, though, that in spite of his friends' admiration and awe of his Purple Heart, Frankie was no hero. A grunt's grunt, he remained three years a private.

While the novel tells the story of Frankie's several attempts to kick the stuff, what we get out of it is the tale of a loser in a community of losers, people the American dream has left behind: small-time swindlers, dwellers in fleabag tenements, drunks, and sweet girls who can't get a break Among the sad detritus of this universe, located around Chicago's West Division Street, Frankie Machine shines like a star, with his big talk and his talent (the "golden arm" refers to his sure skill dealing cards, which he hopes to transfer to playing the drums in a big band).

Still, his life spirals downward. And although the drugs are central, you can't help feeling that if it weren't morphine that did Frankie in, it would have been something else.
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