Colin Asher: Never a Lovely so Real: The Life and Work of Nelson Algren

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Tuesday June 25

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6:30 PM  –  8:00 PM

 

American writing's diversity of form is one of its greatest strengths. The Surprise Bookshelf Series celebrates journalism, poetry, history, biography, graphic art and all forms of American writing.

Award-winning writer Colin Asher discusses his new biography about Nelson Algren, Never a Lovely So Real: The Life and Work of Nelson Algren, which offers an exquisitely detailed, engrossing portrait of a master who, as esteemed literary critic Maxwel Geismar wrote, was capable of suggesting "the whole contour of a human life in a few terse pages." Books will be sold and signed at the event.

For a time, Nelson Algren was America's most famous author, lauded by the likes of Richard Wright and Ernest Hemingway and read by millions of people. His third novel, The Man with the Golden Arm, won the first National Book Award and Frank Sinatra starred in the movie.

But despite his talent, he abandoned fiction and fell into obscurity but the cause of his decline was never clear -- until now. Almost forty years after Algren's death, Colin Asher finally captures the full, novelistic story of his life in a magisterial biography set again mid-twentieth century American politics and culture.

Drawing from interviews, archival correspondence, and the most complete version of Algren's 886-page FBI file ever released, Colin Asher portrays Algren as a dramatic iconoclast. A member of the Communist Party in the 1930s, Algren used his writing to humanize Chicago's underclass, while excoriating the conservative radicalism of the McCarthy era. Asher traces Algren's development as a thinker, his close friendship and falling out with Richard Wright, and his famous affair with Simone de Beauvoir. Most intriguingly, Asher uncovers the true cause of Algren's artistic exile: a reckless creative decision that led to increased FBI scrutiny and may have caused a mental breakdown.

COLIN ASHER is an award-winning writer whose work has been featured in the Believer, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle. An instructor at CUNY, he was a 2015/2016 Fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography.

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