A Walk On The Wild Side Author:Nelson Algren A collection of realistic short stories that won the first National Book Award in 1956. Set in the slums of New Orleans, most of the stories chronicle the hopeless and deracinated lives of the urban poor during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Prostitutes, petty gangsters, bootleggers, and con-men dominate the stories, which show little hope o... more »f redemption or reclamation for many of their inhabitants.
Length: 346 pages
New Orleans in the 1930s is the seamy world of lost and lovelorn Dove Linkhorn and Kitty Twist, of their lust and violence, and of their toughness and survivals.
"...An American classic, a homegrown version of the European bildungsroman, to be read alongside 'Huckleberry Finn', 'The Red Badge of Courage', and 'Native Son'."
Foreword - Russell Banks
"Although Mr. Algren tells us he is writing about 'lost' people, he does not feel much interest in them as human beings, and so can summon up for them, at most, only a vague literary pity. It is impossible to feel that he really cares about these people, that he is interested in them, that these are human beings he has observed. What I object to most in this book is the plainly contrived quality of this pretended feeling about characters whom Mr. Algren writes about not because they are 'lost,' but because they are freaks."
New York Times Book Review - Alfred Kazin (05/20/1956)
"As a celebration of wine, women, and song, the book is more in the spirit of the boozy sentimentality of the broken-down Shakespearean actor declaiming to the boys on the barroom floor than an expression of Rabelaisian exuberance. As a comic novel, it can be funny in the manner of Erskine Caldwell, but Mr. Algren's purpose is not well served by laughs out of 'Tobacco Road.' He has discovered what he wanted to say, all right, but in saying it he seems to have fallen victim to the trouble of one of his own characters, whose 'distinctions were sometimes too fine to follow, and actually weren't worth the bother of following anyhow."
New Yorker - Norman Podhoretz (06/02/1956)
"The book is filled with brilliant little profiles of very dubious characters indeed, with a deliberate sensationalism that is also a take-off on our notions of romantic love, and with passages of inimitable dialogue. Algren's danger is that his 'inspiration'--exuberant, wild, outrageous as it is--sometimes runs away with him; sometimes the book seems to be only inspiration."
Nation - Maxwell Geismar (06/02/1956)
"Though it is cast in the form of fiction, this is vivid, humane, and corrosive reporting. It is not a pleasant book, but the conditions it probes were not pleasant either. There is a savagery in it, rigidly controlled pathos, and not a little humor, but its abiding virtue is that it is stuffed with people of an astonishing variety and richness and individuality."
Chicago Tribune - V. P. Hass (05/20/1956)
"'A Walk on the Wild Side' will be too rough for frail sightseers, but a participant's backward look at a wild 1931 landscape with figures seems worth the effort."