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Walk on the Wild Side Paperback – Import, January 26, 2006
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[D]eserves to be read by every Catch-22 and Cuckoo's Nest freak just so they can find out what opened the door for [these] two novels....It's not only that before Heller and Kesey there was Algren. It's that Algren is where they come from. --Rolling Stone --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
With its depictions of the downtrodden prostitutes, bootleggers, and hustlers of Perdido Street in the old French Quarter of 1930s New Orleans, A Walk on the Wild Side found a place in the imaginations of all the generations that have followed since. Perhaps his own words describe the book best: "The book asks why lost people sometimes develop into greater human beings than those who have never been lost in their whole lives. Why men who have suffered at the hands of other men are the natural believers in humanity, while those whose part has been simply to acquire, to take all and give nothing, are the most contemptuous of mankind". --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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There is more colorful language and colorful characters put down on a page that can be found in the hue of a rainbow. The book asks the question why lost people sometimes develop into greater human beings than those who have never been lost, and why men who have suffered at the hands of other men are some of the most natural believers in humanity while those who have only sought to acquire, to take and take, and never give anything back are the most contemptuous of mankind.
The book, about economic hard time in the 1930's bears an eerie resemblance to the hard times of 2011. In the mixed up time of the 1930's, " ...the number of jobless rose to 8 million, two hundred thousand steelworkers took a 15% wage cut, the D.A.R. demanded that unemployed aliens be deported, a crisis in unemployment relief was imminent, and Huey Long said it was time to redistribute the wealth. The New York City Chamber of Commerce said that Prohibition was failing, the Secretary of Labor pointed out that business was resisting further decline. Self reliance for the penniless and government aid to those who already had more than they could use, was the plan. It was between prostitution and prohibition that the ancient color line was finally breached. Negro bellboys had gained a virtual monopoly on the delivery of illicit alcohol and had found white male guest either wanted a woman with the bottle or a bottle with the woman."
The book is full of charming advice such as the following: "Blow wise to this, friend, never play cards with a man named Doc, never eat at a place called Mom's, never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own. Life is hard by the yard. But you don't to do it by the yard. By the inch, it's a cinch."
Nelsen Algren wrote this novel in the 1950's, long after it was walked. He says he found his way to the streets on the other side of the Southern Pacific Station where the jukes were playing, "Walking the Wild Side of Life." He lived pretty much on that side most of his life. As I read this book, I couldn't help but be reminded that this was book was written by the man whose heart was broken by his French lover, Simone de Beauvoir. He is feature prominently in her novel, "The Mandarins."
Much of this book is a re-run of Somebody in Boots and Never Come Morning, with modifications. Unlike those books, the prose style is Algren at his most polished. Even so he overdoes it on many occasions where a simple statement would have sufficed. But redeems himself by pretty much avoiding the annoying switch in viewpoint within multiple character scenes that mar his other, otherwise excellent work.
Nelson Algren didn't write all that many books in his long career, a state of affairs that could be condensed into two titles: A Walk on the Wild Side and The Man with the Golden Arm.
Most recent customer reviews
Men causing havoc, the seedy side of life, well described if you like that kind of thing. Matt Love recommended it.Read more
underbelly not by choice, but by chance.