âOnce youâve become a part of this particular patch, youâll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real.â
Ernest Hemingway once said of Nelson Algrenâs writing that âyou should not read it if you cannot take a punch.â The prose poem, Chicago: City on the Make, filled with language that swings and jabs and stuns, lives up to those words. In this sixtieth anniversary edition, Algren presents 120 years of Chicago history through the lens of its ânobodies nobody knowsâ: the tramps, hustlers, aging bar fighters, freed death-row inmates, and anonymous working stiffs who prowl its streets.
Upon its original publication in 1951, Algrenâs Chicago: City on the Make was scorned by the Chicago Chamber of Commerce and local journalists for its gritty portrayal of the city and its people, one that boldly defied City Hallâs business and tourism initiatives. Yet the book captures the essential dilemma of Chicago: the dynamic tension between the cityâs breathtaking beauty and its utter brutality, its boundless human energy and its stifling greed and violence.
The sixtieth anniversary edition features historic Chicago photos and annotations on everything from defunct slang to Chicagoans, famous and obscure, to what the Black Sox scandal was and why it mattered. More accessible than ever, this is, as Studs Terkel says, âthe best book about Chicago.â
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