Entrapment and Other Writings
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Nelson Algren sought humanity in the urban wilderness of postwar America, where his powerful voice rose from behind the billboards and down tin-can alleys, from among the marginalized and ignored, the outcasts and scapegoats, the punks and junkies, the whores and down-on-their luck gamblers, the punch-drunk boxers and skid-row drunkies and kids who knew they'd never reach the age of twenty-one: all of them admirable in Algren’s eyes for their vitality and no-bullshit forthrightness, their insistence on living and their ability to find a laugh and a dream in the unlikeliest places.
In Entrapment and Other Writings—containing his unfinished novel and previously unpublished or uncollected stories, poems, and essays—Algren speaks to our time as few of his fellow great American writers of the 1940s and ’50s do, in part because he hasn’t yet been accepted and assimilated into the American literary canon despite that he is held up as a talismanic figure. "You should not read [Algren] if you can’t take a punch," Ernest Hemingway declared. "Mr. Algren can hit with both hands and move around and he will kill you if you are not awfully careful."
opened for him and they followed in like I’d opened for them. One on each side, patting Daddy all over, and Daddy giving them the wrong pocket every time he turned. I set tight as a little gray mouse. You do yourself nothing but harm to ask, “Where’s your warrant?” They’ll tell you, “We don’t need one for a rooming house.” You can tell them, “This ain’t no rooming house this is a hotel” then if you want. But one will wait while the other fetches and they’ll make the warrant stick then if they
Home’—that was what used to break my heart. It wouldn’t just make me cry, either. It would give me the blues. And I don’t mean just the blues. What I got one time was a whole set. What became of him anyhow?” “I guess he came down with a set himself,” I took a guess. “How did you get on stuff in the first place?” “Too much vitality. Vitality was runnin’ away with me. I’d go three days ’n nights without sleep ’n knock off for two hours ’n be ready to go again. I got into more hell than the Alamo
both your legs broke, you gutless alley-fink.” “He’s so nice we didn’t have to give him a Christmas present last year,” Little Stash remembered, “he blows his paycheck on us the whole year round and we didn’t even send him a post card to say ‘Thanks for your patronage.’ ” Big Stash and Little Stash ran the biggest bookie on Milwaukee Avenue between Grand Avenue and West Division. When Oliver couldn’t get to it to make a bet, he phoned his bet in. His credit was so good that, when he had an
came into the two Stashes that evening. Big Stash grabbed him from one side and Little Stash from the other. They put him down between them on the bench and both put their arms about him. “Look at him!” Big Stash told Little Stash, taking Oliver’s chin and turning his face to Little Stash. “Look at whose picture got in the papers! Look at that puss! Chicago’s dumbest!” “I never seen anything that dumb my whole life before,” Little Stash concluded, shaking his head incredulously, “it looks more
shut for a minute. “Can you make restitution?” the judge wanted to know. Old Tom turned toward Jakes and studied, just studied him. Jane and I both knew why: He was trying to remember if he had ever sold Jakes a gump. Tom had a wonderful memory for faces. Once he’d sold a gump to someone, he remembered. He had to. “Jedge,” Tom asked the court, “can I have ten minutes to talk to the complainant?” “Take ten,” the judge told him and got up and went into his chambers. I avoided looking at Jane,