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A Walk On The Wild Side (1998)

A Walk on the Wild Side (1998)
4.02 of 5 Votes: 2
0374525323 (ISBN13: 9780374525323)
the noonday press
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A Walk On The Wild Side (1998)
A Walk On The Wild Side (1998)

About book: I owe Algren a review. He's definitely skilled, and attuned to the bittersweet, to the chasm that occurs between feelings and behavior, especially when it comes to romance or dalliance, and perhaps especially with the down-and-out and poor. The sympathy comes across, but it feels not as if it's the narrator's sympathy, but only our own. Algren rides a fine line, as if it's simply his element, the stuff he breathes, and he places us right there, in the dried dirt of Texas and anything-goes New Orleans during the great depression, amidst the bars and whorehouses and poverty stricken streets. Some passages and scenes are just perfectly expressed, and his penchant for rhyming words is a kick. The personal give and take, and conflicted feelings, between the 16 yr old illiterate hero Dove Linkhorn and the beautiful cafe/bar owner, Terasina, 20 years his senior, - who is still psychologically recovering from one of the most memorably despicable characters that could be described in just a page or two - is pretty special, as is his acquaintance with a lonely hobo girl dressed as a boy who seems fairly desperate for a friend: Dove got a slab of cornbread in molasses and a stack of beans piled so neatly they appeared to have been counted one by one. When he considered how many he had picked he felt that, percentage-wise, he was getting a bad count. "Everyone always gets more than me," he complained, and the girl pushed her plate before him again. "Why you so good to me?" Dove asked. "Because I want YOU to be good to me," she told him so frankly that he felt he must be doing her a favor and cleaned up every crumb.In part the book is about the education or maturation of Dove, but it's a tough path and he's on his own, being essentially a runaway from his dead end life with his preacher widower father and his drunken brother.The novel itself falters a bit, seemed to get sidetracked with some other characters that were not nearly as interesting, but there are plenty of scenes that continue to make it worthwhile - like a scene depicting their hard scrabble life as a huge pile of turtles on a butcher’s block, scrambling over each other in a bloody slipping mess - and some really nice writing, like the two unconnected quotes that I'll close with...While the moon that could never wane looked on, on brandy, silver comb and wine... Keeping time to the rolling man lashed fast between those black-meshed thighs, breathing her breath as she breathed his till she moaned his lips apart... Her eyelids fluttered in the drains of her passion - it had not happened to her before like this. Fitz had felt the flutter against his cheek. The pianola roll whispered on and on, it had not happened to him before so heart-shakingly as this. And the moon that could never wane dimmed down to no more than a gas lamp’s leaning glow. Drinkers and dancers, gaffers and gamblers, all had gone."There's a hundred or so under your comb and brush," he told her - "that's one way to anywhere. See you in jail." And so, having salvaged his pride at the cost of his heart, he left.See you all in jail!

A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE, by one of the most outstanding novelists of the 20th century, Nelson Algren, is another amazing example of his inimitable style. Here he follows illiterate Dove, a teenager from an outback town, to depression-era Louisiana (last century’s depression, not the current one). He ends up on Perdido Street, a part of New Orleans where prostitutes, the disabled, drunks, and cons mingled.This is a critique on the unfairness of the wealth distribution in this country which continues to this day. A time of “Self-reliance for the penniless and government aid for those who already had more than they could use..."Algren’s style in this book is fabulous, sometimes sing-song rhyme, sometimes slow and wistful, with a southern drawl. “To this lopsided shambles owned by this unlicensed ghost, this speakeasy spook who had been alive once but died in the crash and was now only haunting the thirties, came trudging, some uphill and some down, all those who could not admit that the money was spent, the dream was over; the magic done. They still wore the clothes they wore before 1929 and no one knew when they might buy clothes again.”Sometimes Dove isn’t even aware how miserable his situation is. After all, it’s all he knows. “…when he saw men encircling someone or something down the street he hurried there as fast as his butter-colored shoes could make steps……a little round man with something glistening in his hand. Dove elbowed in to see what glistened so nicely.A cawfee pot.Hello, pot.Shor a purty old pot.“Wreneger’s the name,” the little round man was telling his crew, “but you can call me plain old ‘Smiley”…”Little old red ’n green cawfee pot. Well I be dawg. Bet you make right good cawfee.“The idea aint to see how many doors you can rap of a morning-THAT aint sellin’…”I had me a cawfee pot like you, cawfee pot, I’d know where to get the chicory for you.”Heed the housewife’s woes, boys. Give ear to her trials and little cares. Make her joys your joys, her tears your tears…sooner or later she’s going to ask ‘Young man, whatever is that contraption in your hand?’”“Look like a cawfee pot to me,” Dove helped the man out.“Thank you, Red. You work with me…”A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE examines exceptionally well the existence of some of the truly poor during the early 1930’s and I recommend it highly.
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nelson algren lays a breadcrumb trail of three main characters (dove, a simple-minded wanderer; oliver finnerty, a pimp; and schmidt, a crippled wrestler) to lead us through new orleans in the early thirties. the book can be divided into roughly three sections: dove's wanderings; the brothel; and dove in prison. the characters tie together at the brothel, and their interactions with each other (and with the prostitutes) are at the same time comical and harrowing: the actions and dialogue are cartoonish for sure, but that cartoon masks the real violence that is created by the bacchanalian culture that we find the characters in. the highlights here are algren's poetic sentences that drift in and out of rhyme and dialect that provides a surface tension for us to float along while spying the descent, redemption and descent of our characters. a true shame that algren is seldom read anymore, as he's a rare talent.
And so, the most Chicago of authors takes a walk through a few other demimondes (word?) on provides his readers with a tour of America's sexual underground, circa mid-century. Algren is, of course, less judgmental towards the purveyors of sleaze than he is towards its hypocritical customers, which I suppose is sensationalistic in and of itself. The protagonist, Dove, is a simple-minded goon, more naive and gullible than actually innocent, which makes him quite real if not especially likable. The brothel where Dove takes up residence is compellingly wrought, too. Algren's little sermons would be annoying coming from anyone but Nelson Algren.
HEADLINE: Lost American classic rediscovered by me!How in the world did this American classic come to fall through the cracks? And why? From my point of view it is a novel about the depression that is an amalgam of Grapes of Wrath and Confederacy of Dunces. It is Grapes of Wrath with a profound sense of black humor. And it has sex. Dove Linkhorn ought to be mentioned in the same breath as quintessential American heroes such as Huckleberry Finn, Holden Caulfield, Dean Moriarity, Jay Gatsby, and the like. The Dirk Diggler of his era. Perhaps I wax too rhapsodic there, but I do not think so.For what it is worth and if you are interested in pursuing this further you can find a spirited and enthusiastic discussion of the book here. If you have to do a paper on it or something. Be forewarned about that discussion though. It includes “spoilers.” Everyone around here seems so terrified of “spoilers.”
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