A Novelist’s Life in America’s Underbelly

The writer Nelson Algren was an American original who, when he died in 1981, left behind a single work of literature that continues to haunt the American imagination. That work is the 1949 novel The Man With the Golden Arm, a book that has come as revelation to a good number of readers in every generation since it was first published. This in itself is a testament to the way a fully realized piece of writing can overcome the limitations of its own genre—in this case, the proletarian...

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