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A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren

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As I read this wonderful novel, I felt I could smell the booze soaked floor of Dockery's Bar in Depression era New Orleans as double leg amputee Achilles started his nightly bar fight to prove his manhood.
I imagined I could feel broken glass crunch under my feet as prostitute Hattie walked across the trashed floor of Finnerty's brothel to climb the stairs and go to work.
I could sense the amazement as young transient Dove watched a beheaded turtle on a restaurant floor, soon to be a soup ingredient, continue to fight and claw for survival, unable to comprehend life had already left it behind.
In essence, I didn't read this book. I felt it, smelled it and became it. Good writing can do that sometimes.
Nelson Algren based this 1956 novel on his own recollections as a young man who experienced New Orleans "from the other side of the tracks." The main characters that populate this book are so deeply flawed as humans that they almost promote pity, but yet, reek of self confidence and seem proud of their collective depravity.
Though this book is not for the easily offended and is recommended for a mature audience, I wouldn't recommend anybody NOT read this book. The lyrical prose and exceptional storytelling more than make up for the nastiness and debauchery. It reminds me of a restaurant that features a muddy floor and dirty dishes, but with exceptionally good food. It also helped me realize that we all, as humans, are flawed in delightfully diverse ways and that's what keeps life interesting. As the characters lives in this novel shatter like a broken mirror, the individual pieces seem to meld together into a solid reflection of life "on the other side of the tracks." Frankly, in my opinon, this book is a literary masterpiece.
By Dan K @ Central



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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 3, 2010 12:08 PM.

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