Toasting the Man Chicago Almost Forgot, Nelson Algren

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NALGRENOn March 29, the Nelson Algren Committee will host the twenty-fifth annual Nelson Algren Birthday Party to honor the man who eternalized Chicago’s “drunks, pimps, prostitutes, freaks, drug addicts, prize fighters, corrupt politicians, and hoodlums” with his books “The Man With the Golden Arm,” “Neon Wilderness,” and “Chicago: City on the Make.”

This year would mark Algren’s 106th birthday—which actually falls on March 28—but  the festivities planned are lively: theater mainstays Donna Blue Lachman and Bob Swann will be presenting Algren’s work with folksinger Mark Dvorak, filmmaker Tom Palazzolo, actor-director Nate Herman, activist Robert Lopez, and novelist Christopher Corbett. Poetry readings, excerpts from the in-progress documentary, “Nelson Algren: The End is Nothing, The Road is All,” and a tribute to Algren’s lover Simone de Beauvoir.

The Nelson Algren Committee was founded by Warren Leming and Nina Gaspich, Charlie Newman and Kurt Jacobsen in order to resuscitate Algren’s influence in Chicago. They also worked to place his books back in print. Of Algren’s relevancy to today’s local literary scene, Leming says, “Algren remains what Proust was to Paris, Joyce to Dublin, Kafka to Prague, and Doblin to Berlin. [He] never failed to tell the story of those who were never heard. Today, with media consolidation and the increasingly narrow media profile, less and less is being said about those who have seen and suffered the economic crisis.”

The Nelson Algren Committee also established the Algren Committee Awards. This year’s winner, local radio collective The Wizard (WZRD), will be awarded at the Nelson Algren Birthday Party.

Among the Nelson Algren Committee’s future goals are petitioning the city to rename the Wicker Park Library after Algren, and to finance and support the work on the Nelson Algren documentary. (Naomi Huffman)

The 25th Annual Nelson Algren Birthday Party will be held March 29 at the Bloomingdale Arts Building, 2418 West Bloomingdale, at 7:30pm. Doors at 7pm. Admission is $10 at the door, $5 for seniors and students with valid ID. More information at

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