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A Walk on the Wild Side Hardcover – 1957

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Neville Spearman Limited; First Edition edition (1957)
  • ASIN: B0000CJR1M
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.7 x 5.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,744,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Deserves to be read by every Catch-22 and Cuckoo's Nest freak" ROLLING STONE "The intensity of his feeling, the accuracy of his thought, make me wonder if any other writer of our time has shown us more exactly the basis of our democracy. His hell burns with passion for heaven." NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW "Mr. Algren, boy, you are good." ERNEST HEMINGWAY" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

A Walk On The Wild Side is the story of naive country boy, Dove Findhorn. Arriving in New Orleans at the height of the Great Depression, Dove ends up living a grotesque freakshow existence on Perfido Street among the rummies, conmen, pimps, hookers and their johns.

Nelson Algren's classic novel has the American Dream turned on its head and into a nightmare of poverty, violence and unemployment, where the backstreets are a cauldron of hopelessness, crime and despair. It is a novel of enduring and monumental importance. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. Keane on 5 Dec. 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a fantastic novel by one of the greatest American writers of the last century. An unflinching, sometimes harrowing portrayal of a doomed drifter and the low life characters he finds himself rubbing shoulders with in a New Orleans brothel.

Algren, like his French equivalents Celine and Zola, manages to inhabit a world of impoverished dreamers and losers, holding up a cracked mirror to their tragic lives without ever patronising or judging them. Instead he depicts them as real people trapped in a cycle of poverty and despair, people who dream of something better despite having been damned to a lifetime of anything but. People who dare to hope in the face of inevitabilities older than the ground they walk on, setting themselves up for tragic endings they see coming from a mile off.

This was Algren's gift and that is why this is a great book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
Interestingly Algren punctured the American balloon of pomposity and alerted the world to the preening lack of confidence in the new world. The heir of Celine, Dreiser and Upton Sinclair, Algren materialises a world lying the in the recess of the collective memory. He captures a time when the American economy snapped like a rubber band. The result literally was no work and no money for the mass population.

During the American collapse Algren went to New Orleans and plied a hairdressing scam, extracting money from women equally poor. This book is based on the devastation of the 29 crash on the young growing up with literally no future carved out for them and how they twist and turn to survive. This period from 1930-1940 stretched as an infinity for the participants. Now the memory ducts have been backfilled with musicals and Roosevelts New Deal, as if the future was always bright and it just had to unfold as it did. For those who existed at the time there was no emotional lifebelt of a secure future just the endless capracity of existence. the 2nd world war had yet to unfold and save America from financial and social ruin through bleeding Europe of its possessions.

When Algren published, the plaudits were slow to emerge. Whilst the books shifted units, the literary establishment looked askance at why anyone would want to immerse themselves in the attributes of lower life forms. A sense of reading about working class life would inevitably taint one's culture and pollute the reader. The bourgeois performing similar animal functions and having venal jealousies and a will to power had been carefully disguised under the camouflage of manners. Its exposure marked a social and cultural distance.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 18 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
Algren makes the early thirties in America come gloriously alive in this book. Dove, son of a preacher, leaves home in the country to live in New Orleans and make his fortune. What he finds in that benighted city is a scum of thieves and bar girls, men on the make, and a city of violence and beauty. In the language of the time Nelson Algren creates a heartstruck and brutal poem of his time in this truly original book. Rape, murder and robbery, conning, pimping and boozing, are just some of the crimes perpetrated by Dove, yet he remains supremely human and understandable throughout.

This is a different world, America growing more grotesque in the light of it's political will and it's heaving, spitting, degenerative hypocrisy. It is funny, gripping, heartbreaking and tremendously alive. Thrumming with heat and dust and dirt; a fantastic read, headlong and unremitting, it grabs you by the throat and squeezes a half-horrified, half-entranced reaction. Brilliant, linguistically groundbreaking, emotionally roller-coasting, beautiful and terrible, a surreal dream of lives and deaths - it is stunning.
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By H. L. Mason on 24 Mar. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
...is what this novel is all about.
-And what impressions! I don't think I have ever come across a novel as impressionistic as this. It somehow prefigures the gut wrenching force of Cormack McCarthy, another unforgettably atmospheric writer.
This is strictly an ode to life's downtrodden losers: the suckers to whom W.C. Fields would never give an even break.
Whilst in no way an easy read, it is as graphic as life itself in all it's hellish degradation, and pulls no punches in ramming home what abject failure is all about. A real downer, about the kind of people a lot of us never get to meet, who nevertheless become all too familiar through the extraordinarily mordant pen of a writer I have never previously read.
Mr Algren must have been quite a tortured soul to have devoted so much force of experience into describing what otherwise would constitute an amorphous, nondescript bottom layer of American society that nobody would give two hoots about. In his hands, however, Dove Linkhorn, the protagonist, and the human flotsam he manages to attract to his virtual non-existence, becomes an anti-hero that is utterly unforgettable.
Although he manages to make his way from some godforsaken one-horse town in Texas to New Orleans, the book is almost totally lacking a plot. It lives (or dies) on its fly-on-the wall description of the characters, places and seedy lives that occur within. Had a plot been added this would surely rank as a masterpiece.
As it is, I would best describe it as a masterpiece of descriptive writing, although somewhat less as a novel overall.
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