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Nelson Algren
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    (March 28, 1909-May 9, 1981)
    Born in Detroit, Michigan
    Birth name was Nelson Ahlgren Abraham
    Grew up in Chicago
    Wrote 'Never Come Morning' (1942), 'The Man with the Golden Arm' (1949), 'Chicago: City on the Make' (1951), 'Walk on the Wild Side' (1956), 'The Last Carousel' (1973) and 'The Devil's Stocking' (1983)
    He spent five months in jail for stealing a typewriter (1934).
    He married a woman he met at the party celebrating the publication of his first novel, divorced her, remarried her, and redivorced her.
    He had a long-term on-and-off affair with Simone de Beauvoir.
    He went to Vietnam as a war correspondent, but author Kay Boyle noted, 'He never saw a GI. He stayed in the Chinese quarter and played poker all the time. He never wrote a thing.'
    Polish-American leaders in Chicago claimed that his novel 'Never Come Morning' promoted Polish stereotypes and got the book banned from the city libraries for 20 years.
    Feelings still ran so high forty years later that an attempt to rename the street where he had lived in Chicago's Polish Downtown neighborhood 'Algren Avenue' drew so many protests that the decision was reversed in less than a year.
    The Chicago Tribune established a Nelson Algren Award for short fiction, which is ironic given that the Tribune consistently panned his writing when he was alive.
    He served as a medical corpsman during World War II.
    'The Man with the Golden Arm' won the first National Book Award for fiction (1950).
    The FBI kept a 500-page file on him without finding any concrete evidence of subversive behavior. (Then again, the FBI listed 'Simone de Beauvoir' as Algren's alias, so they don't seem to have been doing Grade-A work on the case.)
    He eventually got a lasting memorial in Chicago when a fountain in the Polish Triangle was named for him and inscribed with a quotation about the city's working people from his essay 'Chicago: City on the Make.'
    Hemingway said that Faulkner and Algren were the two best writers in America.
    He coined the advice, 'Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom's. And never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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