Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Algren Love

"I slouched against a rusted girder Nelson Algren would have been proud of, about a block from the corner of Lake and Wabash."

Michael Harvey, Third Rail

I think it's some kind of commandment not to take God's name in vain. Well, the same goes for Nelson Algren, at least if you are from Chicago. It's not that Algren is all knowing, all good, all gritty, all down and out, all anything. He just lived out Chicago at a distinctive time, revealed the underlying humanity of small people and losers, portrayed smoky immigrant Chicago neighborhoods in all their craziness, and captured the devilish genie of Depression-era and post-war Chicago. And then he left, harboring various disappointments -- in the reading public, reviewers, and Chicago.

"We walked into a Starbucks and ordered. Then we sat by the window and looked out at the street."

I guess I like my Algren straight up, not watered down by TV metaphors of Chicago -- the pols, machine, organized crime, brutality, etc. It's hard to imagine Algren walking to Starbuc ethnicities -- but then again.

Does a rusty EL girder in Chicago's downtown capture Algren's point of view, mindset, sensibility? Chicago? Is all that's left of the "city of broad shoulders" some rust, steel, a train?

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