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March 2009
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Happy 100th Birthday Nelson Algren

Today is the 100th birthday of author Nelson Algren and so I dedicate this entry to him.

Born in Detroit on March 28, 1909, he moved to Chicago at the age of three when his father, a Swedish convert to Judaism, and his mother, an American Jew, moved the family to a working-class, immigrant neighborhood on the South Side. For a while they lived at 7139 S. South Park Avenue. Then when he was eight they took up residence in an apartment at 4834 N. Troy Street in the Albany Park neighborhood, not far from the auto shop on Kedzie Avenue where his father worked as a mechanic. Until his death in 1981 Algren lived at 1958 W. Evergreen Street. The seamy underbelly of tough life on the urban streets pulsed through almost everything he wrote.

The building on Troy is still there and since it’s not too far from where I live I did a drive-by the other evening in homage to this writer who so beautifully recorded the dark side of the city he knew and loved so well.

Studs Terkel loved the man and his work so well that he created a radio play based on Algren’s writings. If I’ve managed to post it correctly, here is a small sample of that program, along with some images of the author and some of his work which I pilfered with gratitude from the internet.

It isn’t hard to love a town for its greater and its lesser towers, its pleasant parks or its flashing ballet. Or for its broad and bending boulevards, where the continuous headlights follow, one dark driver after the next, one swift car after another, all night, all night and all night. But you never truly love it till you can love its alleys too. Where the bright and morning faces of old familiar friends now wear the anxious midnight eyes of strangers a long way from home.

–From Nelson Algren’s “Chicago: City on the Make”

Happy birthday, Nelson Algren…..

Louise Frank

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