Times Literary Supplement
The Man with the Golden Armby Nelson Algren
The literary critic Malcolm Cowley called The Man with the Golden Arm "Algren's defense of the
A novel of rare genius, The Man with the Golden Arm describes the dissolution of a card-dealing WWII veteran named Frankie Machine, caught in the act of slowly cutting his own heart into wafer-thin slices. For Frankie, a murder committed may be the least of his problems.
The literary critic Malcolm Cowley called The Man with the Golden Arm "Algren's defense of the individual," while Carl Sandburg wrote of its "strange midnight dignity." A literary tour de force, here is a novel unlike any other, one in which drug addiction, poverty, and human failure somehow suggest a defense of human dignity and a reason for hope.
Times Literary Supplement
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Meet the Author
One of the most neglected of modern American authors and also one of the best loved, NELSON ALGREN (1909–1981) believed that “literature is made upon any occasion that a challenge is put to the legal apparatus by conscience in touch with humanity.” His own voluminous body of work stands up to that belief. Algren’s powerful voice rose from the urban wilderness of postwar Chicago, and it is to that city of hustlers, addicts and scamps that he returned again and again, eventually raising Chicago’s “lower depths” up onto a stage for the whole world to behold. Recipient of the first National Book Award for fiction and lauded by Hemingway as “one of the two best authors in America,” Algren remains among our most defiant and enduring novelists. His work includes five major novels, two short fiction collections, a book-length poem and several collections of reportage. A source of inspiration to artists as diverse as Kurt Vonnegut and Donald Barthelme, Studs Terkel and Lou Reed, Algren died on May 9, 1981, within days of his appointment as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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This story begins somewhat darkly. Our friends are in the slammer, and they are getting little respect from the orderlies. After release, we get a look at their lives, and the lives of their buddies and women. And the picture is bleak. I thought this was going to be an adventure/drama type story. Now I wonder what the point is. Is this a comedy? Because there are funny angles. Is it a commentary on society? Or is it a glimpse at how some pathetic souls live? Are we supposed to do something? How can we do anything? It is a dark story for sure. Frank and Sophia. Violet and Stash. Smoky, rank poker halls, where the fix is always in. All live in misery, the hustled and the hustlers. This is a book I did not want to pick up again. A bad choice for the first award. A bit like 'them' from Joyce Carroll Oates. A terrifically sad, depressing story about the lost souls humanity may always have. Glad to be done with it. Now on to a good story.
Feeling a little low in spirit? If you take meds for depression, you should definitely skip this one as it is a total downer. The man with the golden arm is the story of an impoverished, morphine addicted card hustler set in post war Chicago. While dreaming of playing drums in a big band someday, Frankie Machine deals cards every night at a back room gambling parlor. He has an affair, shoots morphine, gets busted for stealing and does a brief stint in the joint where he cleans up; but it does little to ebb the guilt he feels for causing the car crash that left his wife crippled, bitter and insane. Author Nelson Algren gives a sad, if not eye opening look into the seedier side of the supposedly sanitized post war America. It’s a world of illegal gambling, hustlers, dope fiends, burlesque houses, petty theft, and murder. Craving an uplifting happy ending? Better read something else. This realistic look at the life of an addict at a time when drug use was still underground will make you grateful that your life is not a bleak as that of Frankie Machine.