Writing on Writing
Nelson Algren Nonconformity: Writing on Writing during the early 1950s in an era not dissimilar from our own. As a writer he was at the peak of his stride. It was during the McCarthy era and the House Unamerican Activities Committee hearing were taking their toll. Algren saw friends and co-workers placed on blacklists and unable to find work. Algren himself felt pressure to inform on friends and acquaintances. No one knew who the FBI informants were and with the end of World War II, with the Korean War winding down but not over and the growing hostilities towards a nuclear Soviet Union, immense social pressures built up to conform. This book is probably Algren's most overt political writing. He looked to publish it in 1956 but it disappeared, not to re-emerge until it publication in 1956. Daniel Simon edits and slightly rearranges the manuscript, provides extensive end notes and an afterword to give the book context. Even in a book with a political tilt, as Algren writes you can feel the grit and hear the El rumbling overhead and smell the dank alleys of 1950s Chicago. Algren focuses his passion on the pressures of his era weighing on the writer and those who create. Algren shoves his finger into all the wounds, wakes us up and encourages us to be honest with ourselves. In so doing, he captures the desolation and desperation of his age. The book is highly personal but speaks to all of us and even more than half a century after it was first written, Algren still has the power to make us uncomfortable and to make us think. I highly recommend this book - it is as timely today as when first written.