Chicago: City on the Make

Chicago: City on the Make This Th Anniversary Edition Has Been Newly Annotated By David Schmittgens And Bill Savage With Explanations For Everything From Chicago History To Slang To What The Black Sox Scandal Was And Why It Mattered In This Slender Classic Algren Tells Us All We Need To Know About Passion, Heaven, Hell And A City From The Introduction By Studs TerkelNelson Algren Won The National Book Award In For The Man With The Golden Arm His Other Works Include Walk On The Wild Side, And Conversations With Nelson Algren, The Last Available From The University Of Chicago PressDavid Schmittgens Teaches English At New Trier High School In Northfield, IllinoisBill Savage Is A Senior Lecturer At Northwestern University And Coeditor Of The Th Anniversary Critical Edition Of The Man With The Golden ArmCover Photograph Robert McCullogh

Born of Swedish immigrant parents, Nelson Ahlgren Abraham moved at an early age from Detroit to Chicago At Illinois University he studied journalism His experiences as a migrant worker during the Depression provided the material for his first novel Somebody in Boots 1935 Throughout his life Algren identified with the American underdog From 1936 to 1940 the highpoint of left wing ideas on th

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  • Paperback
  • 135 pages
  • Chicago: City on the Make
  • Nelson Algren
  • English
  • 25 October 2019
  • 9780226013855

10 thoughts on “Chicago: City on the Make

  1. says:

    I m from Sydney I spent a few days in Chicago once and think about the place often It was unlike any other city I d been to, landlocked yet on a shoreline, soulful yet missing something, giant art deco Metropolis esque skyscrapers everywhere but with strangely deserted streets between them None of the locals would give me a straight answer to the question Where is everybody I spent a few days cycling around Lake Michigan with a Swiss guy I met, and at one point, as we stopped to watch an enigmatic single rose floating on the water, he said I think I love this city I agree, andI will go back one day to figure out why How strange to read this beautifully written book and realise how much Sydney and Chicago have in common.

  2. says:

    This is one of the best things I ve ever happened upon Algren s name is legendary, but I ve mostly overlooked him Too much of this book is too much good to comment on I don t really know where to begin As a knee jerk lefty, there s a lot of Algren that s easy to agree with the brokers and hustlers reward themselves of other s efforts there s blood on the streets you ll live your whole life in the shadows of towers no one will remember your efforts unless you ve stolen them of someone else s labor On top of that, there s a soft spot for artists and poets run through the whole thing With that sort of subject, written in a muscular, symbolist measure, I can t help but be a fan Whether or not that s a book worth the reading, I couldn t say For me, it s an exemplary American effort, over and beyond the facile complaints of the upper middleclass so haunts our fiction here the sweat and tears of Dreiser, Masters, Sandburg, find comment and expansion Chicago s no sweet home, but the most terrible and American of places, scourged by power, reinvented, rootless resting place of Haymarket and the ten thousand discouraged.

  3. says:

    Chicago has a tradition of romanticizing its hustlers, working girls and petty crooks Mike Royko and Studs Terkel were award winning writers and younger contemporaries of Algren who contributed to that tradition too But CITY ON THE MAKE, written shortly after Algren received the National Book Award for THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, took the romanticization of Chicago s street smart sharpsters and corrupt politicians to heights achieved by no one else CITY ON THE MAKE is short 87 pages and poetry than essay It depicts Chicago in a manner reflecting a hard calloused sensibility that went out of fashion after Vietnam and Watergate Although CITY ON THE MAKE was regarded favorably by the critics in New York City and was praised lavishly in France where it was first translated by Jean Paul Sartre, it fell flat in Chicago itself The local gentry did not like the mirror that Algren held up to their city.As a long time resident of Chicago, I did not love CITY ON THE MAKE either but, of course, I read it 60 years after the fact To me, it coasts lazily on stereotypes resulting in a one dimensional depiction of a city that is far deeper and complex than anything Algren even hints at in this short book There are four thoughts that I want to share in this review First, Algren assumes a lot from his readers There are many references to obscure Chicago people and facts that are likely to be unfamiliar to most readers Without the background, however, a reader may not fully enjoy Algren s sly side swipes at Chicago s many hypocrites, past and present.Second, in the edition that I read, an Afterword is included The Afterword was written by Algren himself in 1961, for a 10 year anniversary edition of the book Algren s Afterword is not gracious He seems to have written it in part to settle the score with those who had panned CITY ON THE MAKE when it was first published in 1951 He makes little effort to disguise his anger or his motives That failure does not reflect well on him.Third, Algren is at his most entertaining when he reminisces about his childhood and the summer his family moved from the south side to the north side He was a White Sox fan, and had to defend his honor and his favorite player, Swede Risberg, a chief conspirator in the then recent Black Sox scandal Finally, Algren is at his most interesting when he bemoans the quality of literature being created in Chicago in the period immediately after WWII He remembers earlier times when Farrell, Ferber, Lonigan, Wright and others were writing the books that caused Mencken to call out Chicago as the city in America where the only books worth reading were being written Yet, Algren himself and, a few years later, Saul Bellow were among the best of their generation.

  4. says:

    I m not sure how to rate this one I believe I am going to have to read it again And then read it again This is my first time reading Algren, which I think is a crime when I have lived in Chicago my whole life Any life long Chicagoan must read Algren Otherwise are you really a Chicagoan I read the preface, the essay, the afterword and even the editor s biographies in Chicago City on the Make, but I do believe I will need to read it again Why Well, frankly, I had difficulty penetrating Algren s thick, weighty, poetic prose There s so much imagery and metaphor in this work I got lost in understanding what was really being explored What Algren was really writing about Don t get me wrong I know what he was writing about, but the details of his history, the details of the knock down, drag out events he depicts, I couldn t altogether follow It is almost TOO poeticI almost feel shut out, rather than welcomed in like Toni Morrison s Beloved But perhaps that was Algren s intention all along I mean, isn t that what Chicago is A home where ultimately you sleep outside the front door This edition provides amazing assistance with the notes in the back, but ultimately I found myself simultaneously embracing and fighting with Algren s prose This essay is greatness, and my love of greatness, especially Chicago greatness, warrants an additional read Then to read it again.

  5. says:

    Sadly, reading this book only reinforced to me that, for better or worse, the old Chicago is a thing of the pastmuch like Vegas, it is an image to be sold to tourists but the reality is a sanitized version of something that hasn t existed for a long time I guess that is the world we live in, in generaleverything sanitized for our protection to the point where there is very little that is real any What Chicago has gained in user friendliness, it has lost in personality Yes, if you know where to look, it s all still here and some things never changebut you have to look very hard these days to understand what made Chicago what it was I don t think a lot of the people living here now can appreciate it either I caught a glimpse of it when I lived here before from 98 02, but it was fading even then and has faded now A couple of points, though Politics is still a very much a way of everyday life in Chicago and to be honest, Algren s romanticism of the bad old Chicago is tedious and corny to me at times One thing that Algren does get right that I don t expect will ever change is that once you ve lived here a while, you will love this old whore of a town than she can ever love you paraphrased juxtaposed from several of the author s own wordsalthough I don t think he ever calls her an old whorethat s all me And, while I m at it, loving her too much can be detrimental to your health.

  6. says:

    I did not realize this was a prose poem, whatever the fuck that is DNF.

  7. says:

    After completing Never Come Morning and Chicago City on the Make, I may have to declare Nelson Algren as one of my top five favorite authors Sixty years after being penned, Chicago City on the Make retains all of its poignancy it remains an honest portrayal of the history of Chicago it makes real the lives of the easily forgotten This gritty piece of prose poetry, I think, is easily related to by any who have loved, hated, or hated to love Chicago In about eighty pages, Algren poetically transcribes about 120 years of this city s history, chronicling the transition from untamed Pottawattomie prairie to a city, That was to forge, out of steel and blood red neon, its own peculiar wilderness 11.He begins, in his sardonic prose, with a description of those who settled this land and their ruthless wagering with the Native people that called this place home This place would be later known as Hustler City They d the pioneering middle westerners do anything under the sun except work for a living, and we remember them reverently, with Balban and Katz, under such titles as Founding Fathers, Dauntless Pioneers, or Far Visioned Conquerors Meaning merely they were out to make a fast buck off whoever was standing nearest They never conquered as well as they hustled their arithmetic was sharper than their hunting knives 12 He continues in this fashion, uttering line after line our city s hidden truths He strips her bare and to those that have loved her, she is tragically beautiful Algren ignores the Louis Sullivans and the Stephen Douglases, and focuses his writing upon, the nobodies from nowhere, the nobodies nobody knows, with faces cut from the same cloth as their caps, and the women whose eyes reflect nothing but the pavement 67 He asserts that this is where you will find the heart of Chicago, not among the mirroresque windows of our tallest towers They don t reflect anything of substance for him No, a true reflection of this city is found in its fighters, its writers, its workers, its alley dwellers, its tavern owners, its young toughs, and its working families Algren uses many of his pages here to detail the horrors of city life, elevating Chicago to prime exemplar However, he warns that, Before you earn the right to rap any sort of joint, you have to have loved it a little while You have to belong to Chicago like a crosstown transfer out of the Armitage Avenue barns first and you can t rap it then just because you ve been crosstown 42 These motions of admonishing urban life are as uniquely American, at this time, as Chicago herself But Algren cannot simply disparage Chicago he loves this city and he loves the people that populate it In what are, perhaps, my favorite lines of the poem, Algren proclaims, Yet once you ve come to be part of this particular patch, you ll never love another Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies But never a lovely so real 23 I think this holds true for many, especially for me, as I have tried to make my life in another city, but found myself wanting of the familiar, dusty alleyways the street side shops whose neon banners cry their wares in Spanish, Polish, Italian, Bohemian, Dutch, Hebrew, Ukrainian the neighborhood talent striving to make their way by basketball, rhythmic poetry, and homemade CD s And yes, I m sure that many cities afford their residents these comforts, but reading Algren s words makes me think of mine I highly recommend this work If you have enjoyed any of the quotations in this review, I urge you to pick it up and give it a go This essay is filled with them.

  8. says:

    An epic prose poem about Chicago that celebrates all that is good and bad in our city A slim book that makes the most out of every single word written With a wonderful introduction by Studs Terkel and a brilliant afterword by Algren himself, I found that once I got started I had a hard time putting it down.I loved Algren s use of colorful language and felt that he made many statements that still hold true today Such as The hard necessity of bringing the judge on the bench down into the dock has been the particular responsibility of the writer in all ages of man In Chicago, in our own curious span, we have seesawed between blind assault and blind counter assault, hanging men in one decade for beliefs which, in another, we honor others Algren is a witty, smart man, and a wonderful writer I hope to read his short stories and fiction next.A must read for all Chicagoans as well as history and literature buffs.

  9. says:

    By days when the wind bangs alley gates ajar and the sun goes by on the wind By nights when the moon is an only child above the measured thunder of the cars, you may know Chicago s heart at last

  10. says:

    Nelson Algren described a Chicago I do not recognize He described a Chicago that was mostly struggling neighborhoods where wealth and prosperity are the exception in the downtown area and the Northshore suburbs I know there are still struggling neighborhoods and downtown and the Northshore are still wealthy but there is much in between Either way, I appreciate having Algren as an observer to report with clear and lively prose about a Chicago that has changed a lot since 1951 without apology.Although Chicago may not still be quite the way he described it his themes still certainly apply to our lives Algren was so class and justice conscious and his best observations timelessly cut the crap You can t make an arsenal of a nation and yet expect its great cities to produce artists It s in the nature of the overbraided brass to build walls about the minds of men as it is in the nature of the arts to tear those dark walls down p 55 Something that still rings true as the US has the largest military budget in the world And Algren continues with his observations of fine arts regarding the way wealth operates for its own benefit The city s arts are built upon the uneasy consciences that milked the city of millions then bought conscience ease with a multiple fraction of the profits A museum for a traction system, and opera for a utilities empire p 68 69 Algren was a writer who turned experiences, feelings, and references of the less fortunate into statements about society Algren also had a beat poet s knack for flipping from discreet observation to revelatory musing For Chicago lives like a drunk El rider who cannot remember where he got on nor at what station he wants to get off The sound of wheels moving below satisfies him that he is making great progress page 86 Nelson Algren was a cranky beat poet but he seemed to have a deeper understanding of economic hardship which in Chicago City on the Make he turned into great prose.

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