The Neon Wilderness: 24 Short Stories
Afterword by Studs Terkel
Algren's classic 1947 short story collection is the pure vein Algren would mine for all his subsequent novels and stories. The stories in this collection are literary triumphs that "don't fade away." Among the stories included here are "A Bottle of Milk for Mother," about a Chicago youth being cornered for a murder, and "The Face on the Barrome Floor," in which a legless man pummels another man nearly to death—the seeds that would grow into the novel Never Come Morning.
Algren's World War II stories whose final expression would be in the novel The Man with the Golden Arm are also part of this collection. "So Help Me," Algren's first published work, is here. Other stories include, "The Captain Has Bad Dreams," in which Algren first introduced the character of the blameless captain who feels such a heavy burden of guilt and wonders why the criminal offenders he sees seem to feel no guilt at all. And then there is "Design for Departure," in which a young woman drifting into hooking and addiction sees her own dreaminess outlasting her hopes.
"Algren's short stories are now generally acknowledged to be literary triumphs." —The New York Times
"Since the publication of The Neon Wilderness … Nelson Algren has been acknowledged as a master of that American Realism touched with poetry, which attempts to give voice to the insulted and injured. He is a philosopher of deprivation, a moral force of considerable dimensions and a wonderful user of the language." —Donald Barthelme
"Once more I have been impressed by Algrens talent, his probity, and his command of a tough language that he transforms into a raw and bleeding poetry." —Malcolm Cowley, The Nation
"Mr. Algren, boy are you good—one of the two best authors in America." —Ernest Hemingway
About Nelson Algren
One of the most neglected of American writers and also one of the best loved, NELSON ALGREN (1909–1981) once wrote that “literature is made upon any occasion that a challenge is put to the legal apparatus by conscience in touch with humanity.” His powerful voice rose out of the urban wilderness of postwar Chicago, and he returned there over and over, eventually transforming his “lower depths” into something the whole world could understand. Recipient of the first National Book Award for fiction and lauded by Hemingway as “one of the two best authors in America,” Algren remains one of our most defiant and indomitable novelists, with a body of work that includes five major novels, two short fiction collections, a book-length poem, and several collections of reportage.