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Nonconformity: Writing on Writing

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  180 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
The struggle to write with deep emotion is the subject of this extraordinary book, the previously unpublished credo of one of America's greatest 20th-century writers.
"You don't write a novel out of sheer pity any more than you blow a safe out of a vague longing to be rich," writes Nelson Algren in his only longer work of nonfiction, adding: "A certain ruthlessness and a se
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Published January 4th 2011 by Seven Stories Press (first published June 1st 1996)
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Sara Gran
Aug 31, 2010 Sara Gran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite book. I own over two thousand books--this is the one I would save in a fire.
Apr 18, 2011 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this a second time for it to fully sink in, and a few of the passages seemed to wander off point, but there's no denying the passion and intellect behind this unique manifesto. Algren decries the hollowness and complacency of mid-Twentieth Century America, and urges writers to look beyond the comfortable mainstream to get at the true heart of the country - the lower classes, the down and out, the marginalized who forever fail to profit from the prosperity of the well-off. Readers o ...more
Oct 11, 2007 Brad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How can I strongly recommend a book to which I also gave "three stars"? It's easy: I strongly recommend this book. Bam!

A very brief book, an essay really, wherein he discusses the writer's craft in light of the crisis of McCarthyism going on at the time. This is not what I'd expected, as I expected more of an autobiography of techniques and attitudes toward the writing process. That was my assumption based upon very little information.

It is amazing (and a bit scary) just how applicable his comm
Darren Stallard
Required reading for anyone who wants to write or to understand the writing process. Excellent essay.
Dec 16, 2016 Theresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rough and quick sex with a book. That's what it was like.

The essay “Nonconformity: Writing on Writing” by Nelson Algren, edited by Daniel Simon, is an engaging, energetic read.

Nelson Algren, an American writer who lived in Chicago and died in 1981, was one of Simone de Beauvior’s lovers. He wrote a first draft of the essay “Nonconformity” while he and Simone were in the process of ending their long distance relationship and he was in the process of reuniting with his former wife, Amanda. Daniel
Karen Street
Nov 17, 2016 Karen Street rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: educational

Recommended along with :
Edgar Allan Poe: The Philosophy of Composition
Umberto Eco: Postscript to the Name of the Rose
Larry McMurtry; Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen

I'm waiting for Marilynne Robinson to pen something similar, but sadly she probably won't.
Charles Martin
Feb 23, 2016 Charles Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When a friend loans me a book, I will sometimes send them passages from the book that specifically resonated with me just to see if those words had the same impact on the other person. I could not do that with this book because almost every page had something startling and beautiful on it.
Jul 18, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer2009
A really excellent essay about writing, and more largely about the artist and society. It made me want to read more of Algren's work.
Michael Borshuk
Jan 02, 2011 Michael Borshuk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fearless advice for writers, composed in the perilous context of McCarthy's America, but timeless in its wisdom.
Feb 16, 2012 Alwa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading waaaay too much Nelson Algren, I declare this good, but not essential; short at least, but pretty repetitive.
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  • The Sound on the Page: Great Writers Talk about Style and Voice in Writing
  • Booknotes: America's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing, and the Power of Ideas
  • A Transatlantic Love Affair: Letters to Nelson Algren
  • The Writer's Notebook: Craft Essays from Tin House
  • On Writing Short Stories
  • To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction
  • The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work : A Collection from the Washington Post Book World
  • The Writing of Fiction
  • Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society
  • Borges on Writing
  • Henry Miller on Writing
  • 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
  • Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction
  • The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain
  • Final Vinyl Days
  • How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar
  • Misogynies
  • The Lost Origins of the Essay
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 ...more
More about Nelson Algren...

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“You don't write a novel out of sheer pity any more than you blow a safe out of a vague longing to be rich. A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery.” 34 likes
“these will suffice; who knows but we may be on a slope which leads down to
aboriginal savagery. But of this 1 am sure: if we are to escape, we must not yield a foot upon demanding a fair field and an honest race to all ideas.”
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