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MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, THE Paperback – 10 Apr 1997

4.1 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 343 pages
  • Publisher: SEVEN STORIES PRESS; New edition edition (10 April 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1888363185
  • ISBN-13: 978-1888363180
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.3 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,990,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"This is a man writing and you should not read it if you cannot take a punch - Mr Algren can hit with both hands and move around and he will kill you if you are not awfully careful ... Mr Algren, boy, you are good." (Ernest Hemingway)

"Algren's skill brings his city to life; his writing carries you into his heart and his outraged compassion ensures that his story is as relevant now as ever." (The Observer)

"What Runyon did for New York with Guys and Dolls, Algren does for the 'windy city'....On its last page The Man with the Golden Arm lapses into - or should that be achieves - the condition of poetry, something Algren's writing was always close to." (The Herald)

"America's finest, yet most neglected writer...Nelson Algren's enduring love for the Windy City and its struggling immigrants fired his hauntingly brilliant prose....Thanks to Rebel Inc, The Man with the Golden Arm may now be remembered as Algren's work. It would be only a fragment of what he deserved." (Bizarre) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

With a foreword by Kurt Vonnegut
Afterword by Studs Terkel

"The finest American novel published since the war."
Washington Post

Winner of the first ever National Book Award, Nelson Algren's masterpiece is one of the truly ground-breaking novels to come out of twentieth-century America. Subsequently made into a film starring Frank Sinatra in its central role, The Man with the Golden Arm is a book of rare genius, an unforgettably sad portrait of a community and in particular its card-dealing, doomed protagonist, Frankie Machine, as he slowly cuts his own heart into wafer-thin slices.

The literary critic Malcolm Cowley described the novel as "Algren's defence of the individual" and Kurt Vonnegut wrote of Algren being "a master storyteller...enchanted by the hopeless". Both appreciated the book's enormous compassion and humanity and Algren's immense skill in bringing a time and place vividly to life as will any contemporary reader of this quiet powerhouse of a novel.

"A classic portrayal... stylish, atmospheric and moving"
Independent on Sunday

"A true novelist's triumph."
Time

"Algren is an artist whose sympathy is as large as Victor Hugo's, an artist who ranks, with this novel, among our
best American authors."
Chicago Sun Times

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 4 Jun. 1999
Format: Paperback
I ask people if they've read a certain book, and often they'll ask "does it count if I saw the movie?" I tell them it never counts; in the case of the Man With The Golden Arm, you should have to read the book twice to make up for it.
I believe it was Hemingway who said of Algren, "don't read him if you can't take a punch." This is a powerful book, definitely not for everyone. If you like it, though, give Don Carpenter a try as well (another tragically underappreciated writer),
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Format: Paperback
...,losers being the only ones left with something to say and no one to say it."
For me that sums up Algren's passion to tell the stories he wrote about real people scrabbling to get by. He was unflinching yet humane and the muscle of his prose adds to the realism and honesty of his work. Algren's anti-heroes cannot escape their downward spiral, but retain some kind of dignity despite their defeat. I am surprised and saddened by the reviews of Algren's work that want a zippier pace and plot -- that would undermine the theme and story world by going 'Hollywood' slick. You need an attention span to read an Algren book - and that's a good thing.
While I'm glad Canongate has republished this, I tried (and failed) to review the edition that I read... as the thought of Irvine Welsh associating himself with Algren -- if only by writing an introduction -- really annoys me. Algren was the real deal; Welsh has made a lot more money from his books but they don't come anywhere close -- Welsh just doesn't have the compassion in his writing that Algren did. Not a fraction of it. Canongate did well to publish Welsh... but hell, he's not in the same league as Algren, Kurt Vonnegut (the introduction), or Studs Terkel who wrote the 'Afterword'.
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Format: Paperback
I had the opportunity to watch a new documentary film, "Nelson Algren: The End is Nothing, the Road is All" in which one of the interviewees refers to Algren (1909 -- 1981) as the "poet of the lost". The film moved me to revisit Algren, a writer I don't know well, and to read his best-known novel, "The Man With The Golden Arm". Algren received the first National Book Award for this novel in 1950 -- an outstanding initial choice for a premiere literary award. In the novel, Algren tells the story of lost, lonely individuals. He writes with a harsh beauty amply justifying the film's reference to him as the "poet of the lost". The novelist Kurt Vonnegut who knew Algren refers to him near the end of the film as "the loneliest man I ever met", a description that would apply to many of the characters in Algren's award-winning novel.

The novel is set in the bars, cheap apartments, prisons, and streets frequented by the Chicago underclass in 1947- 1948. The novel's main character, who goes by the name of Frankie Machine, has acquired the nickname of the "man with the golden arm" due in part to his steadiness in dealing cards. Frankie aspires to put his steadiness of arm, wrist and hand to use by becoming a jazz drummer. Characters in this novel often are called by their roles, and Frankie is known as "Dealer". Frankie served in the Army in WW II, took a severe wound to the stomach, and became a morphine addict. Algren's novel is one of the first to explore seriously and realistically the use of drugs.

The novel is filled with low life, highly differentiated characters, including Frankie's friend Solly, a mildly-retarded petty thief who usually is called Sparrow, or "punk".
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By A Customer on 9 Jun. 1998
Format: Paperback
The film is better known yet far inferior to the book. This is a genuinely heart breaking, yet unsentimental, tale of social and personal dereliction and decay. A timeless evocation of the inner city, its victims and survivors.
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A synopsis of the story is well set out in one of the other reviews but I am astonished that reviewers have given this five stars.(By the way,I've never seen the film)

The first 100 pages are a mess requiring iron will to persevere- where was the editing? The dialogue is extremely difficult for a UK reader. Phonetic spelling is everywhere (fee-an-sey). Proper Nouns & personal names proliferate eg)Steerer, Blind Pig, Meter Reader,Record Head, one character has at least four interchangeable names such that you are half way through the book before easy recognition kicks in. The best name, apart from Frankie Machine himself, has got to be Rumdum the alcoholic hound.

The UK reader (and possibly US reader) will also need a whole new vocabulary eg)unkjay,coneroo,sandlot,aggies,lamisters,boog honky-tonk. There are many more and the problem is that it slows reading to a crawl or convert to scan read.

For such a dark novel it does contain some lovely comedy one-liners but it is so easy to miss them in a blizzard of metaphors. There is a good novel in there (a much shorter novel) but my feelings can be summed up with this quote;

'Go back to the beginning',Sparrow requested politely,'I lost tract in the middle'. But DeWitt was too busy hauling that little red wagon of piled-up woes to heed anyone'.
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