Re: RARA-AVIS: Influences: Nathanael West

From: Rene Ribic (
Date: 12 Jun 2002

> > Next is Nelson Algren, whose work is staring at me from the
> > library.
> Now there's a slam dunk in the noir category. I was particularly
> with his short story collection "The Neon Wilderness". Dark, seedy,
> desperate. Great stuff.
> I thought the book "Man with the Golden Arm" although beautifully
> dragged a bit, but the flick with a surprisingly convincing
performance by
> Sinatra is really worth seeing.
> Brad
I've only read THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM by Algren so far & it's a wonderful book despite Algren apparently swallowing the quaint notion that morphine withdrawals can return, in full force, even many years after an addict has "kicked". I imagine a situation somewhat like this - Algren has been doing his research by interviewing an old pal/acquaintance (for argument's sake we'll call him "Shakey").: Algren: Wassup Shakey, you're not looking too good today. Shakey:I'm not, man, I'm really jonesin'. Algren (raising his eyebrow):I thought you'd kicked? Shakey: I did, man, I did! Algren: So how come you've got the shakes, Shakey? Shakey: You don't understand. It can hit you any time, you start thinking about it & wham! You're jonesin! Even ten years later it can just hit ya out of nowhere! Algren (pulling out his Notepad): Hmm. Shakey: How about lending me some bread? Algren: Isn't that going to start you off again? Shakey: No, no - I tell ya, I'm as cured as anyone can get - I'll be OK till next time. It might not happen for years. Algren: Well, OK, as long as you're not using again. Shakey: I'm not, I swear on my mother's grave.Thanks, Nelson. You're a real pal..
(Exeunt Shakey, tightly holding on to his wad of bills & eternally grateful to the gullibility of square johns like Algren). Despite my taking the piss, it is a classic book - and less about addiction than you might think (the Golden Arm of the title refers to Frankie Machine's prowess with a pair of dice rather than the amount of money that gets injected, metaphorically speaking, into Frankie's arm). Eventually, I'll get around to reading his other works - I doubt I'll be disappointed.
(And yeah, Frank Sinatra did a brilliant job playing Frankie Machine in the movie. In fact , Ol' Blue Eyes is a much underrated actor, IMO as well as a talented singer - even if he's an A-grade asshole in other respects. On an unrelated note, what's scaring me is not the fact that I like Frank's classic recordings these days but that I'm even starting to listen to Dean Martin. Is this a side-effect of hitting the 40's?)


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