A Walk on the Wild Side
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A Walk on the Wild Side

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  761 ratings  ·  69 reviews
Mr. Algren, boy, you are good - Ernest Hemingway

The intensity of his feeling, the accuracy of his thought, make me wonder if any other writer of our time has shown us more exactly the human basis of our democracy. Though Algren often defines his positive values by showing us what happens in their absence, his hell burns with passion for heaven - The New York Times Book Rev...more
Paperback, 346 pages
Published June 24th 1998 by The Noonday Press (first published 1956)
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The bruised romantic's Bible: a sagacious tale of melancholy lostness underpinned by a fundamental, indubitable sense of something transcendentally positive underlying that hell.

Algren himself described it almost perfectly when he said: "the book asks why lost people sometimes develop into greater human beings than those who have never been lost in their whole lives. Why men who have suffered at the hands of other men are the natural believers in humanity, while those whose part has been simply...more
HEADLINE: Lost American classic rediscovered by me!

How in the world did this American classic come to fall through the cracks? And why? From my point of view it is a novel about the depression that is an amalgam of Grapes of Wrath and Confederacy of Dunces. It is Grapes of Wrath with a profound sense of black humor. And it has sex.

Dove Linkhorn ought to be mentioned in the same breath as quintessential American heroes such as Huckleberry Finn, Holden Caulfield, Dean Moriarity, Jay Gatsby, and t...more
Brian Engelhardt
Unbelievable! Pimps, prostitutes, alcoholics, thieves, drug addicts, drifters, abortionists, scam artists, barflies. . . every down-and-out person you're ever likely to meet is in here. Algren wrote about the kinds people and places that he knew best and his work reads like dark poetry. An amazing command of the English language!
Greg Deane
A Walk on the Wild Side is a particularly dark and hopeless book, where the voyeuristic prurience deprives any pleasurable intimacy that provides a glimmer of loving redemption to any of the characters. Even on those occasions when there is a half promise of stolen happiness, the baseness and fears of the characters destroys their improbable aspirations. Similarly, the struggle for economic survival, of dignity through work, or even belief in God, is cruelly abnegated at each turn.

Being set amon...more
Ryan Holiday
A story about the old French Quarter and New Orleans of the 1930s. A story encompassing midget pimps, legless former circus strongmen, Southern aristocrats suffering from "black mammy syndrome," conniving door-to-door salesmen, prostitutes, hustlers, runaways named Kitty Twist, the sane, the insane, the homeless, the insane sane homeless masquerading as eighteenth century admirals, and condom factories. A story of delicate depth and one of those novels that works best when viewed as a whole. The...more
Nicholas Pell
I did enjoy reading this book, as evidenced by the fact that I read it in three sittings. I think you need to read this book in big chunks for it to make sense. Nelson Algren has a very elliptical style of writing, so something that you read three pages ago might only make sense later. It can get trying at times, but overall I think it's interesting. I'm not sure if this is just me or what, but I feel like there was a total absence of transitions in Wild Side, with the author shifting awkwardly...more
Marilyn Moreau
If you like your characters damaged and your prose poetic, this is the book for you. No author does it better.
David Bonesteel
Nelson Algren's novel relates the adventures of Dove Linkhorn, an illiterate young man who leaves poverty and a failed love affair behind him to wander the countryside. He has many adventures along the way until he settles for a time in New Orleans, where he will experience happiness and great tragedy.

Linkhorn is an appealing character, whose desire to better himself makes him easy to sympathize with. The real star of this novel, however, is Algren's prose. Hemingway himself felt that Algren was...more
A really great work from a now underestimated writer. Algren's story of the Depression-era New Orleans underworld is riveting--not only for its depictions of prostitutes, pimps, junkies, and conmen, but because of the enigmatic protagonist. Dove Linkhorn is a paradoxical figure, at once seemingly ignorant and yet strangely talented. Dove is gifted with an unrealistic sexual capacity and a natural talent for math, yet his identity remains incomplete based on his illiteracy.

What's really very inte...more
Jerod Duris
I put this one off for a long time, knowing it was Algren's most popular, but then I kept encountering references to it involving Hunter Thompson. It is clearly the most outstanding of the 4-5 Algren books I've read. A brilliant feat of modernism, like a cross between Grapes of Wrath and Naked Lunch.
Anne Simpson
Though the writing is very impressive - descriptive, ironic, poetic, I couldn't get into the story because none of the characters is developed enough for me to care much about them. It felt long and repetitious. Many of the characters seemed like caricatures rather than real people. Dove Linkhorn, the main character, was some what sympathetic though not entirely, as he often contributed to his own situation.
The poverty Algren writes about is no mere politcal category. In fact, there's nothing you can do about the world he writes about because if you're reading about it, you're not living in it. Yet what makes this novel so great is that the characters have hopes and dreams, undefined by their immediate experience, or any idea of being noble. The writing style is excellent: loose, but never showy.
Victor Giron
Reading Nelson Algren for the first time, about 4 years ago, made me want to quit trying to write because the man perfected it. Talk about combining prose and poetry. And the characters he creates are unbelieveable. But I kept going understanding that I'd always be inferior, and that's ok, to be inerior to Nelson Algren, it's more than just ok.
"And the coloured girls say

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo

David B
Nelson Algren's novel relates the adventures of Dove Linkhorn, an illiterate young man who leaves poverty and a failed love affair behind him to wander the countryside. He has many adventures along the way until he settles for a time in New Orleans, where he will experience happiness and great tragedy.

Linkhorn is an appealing character, whose desire to better himself makes him easy to sympathize with. The real star of this novel, however, is Algren's prose. Hemingway himself felt that Algren was...more
Marian Deegan
I believe this was supposed to be Algren's masterpiece, but don't quote me on that. If you are a Grapes of Wrath fan, this should be on your reading list. Algren was a champion of the poor, the desperate, and the downtrodden; he writes a powerful novel.

But me, I'm with Carol Shields. I can grit through miles of despair, but I'm always looking for that alternative hopeful course. Algren, perhaps realistically, doesn't find that brighter path.

It's not narrative crumble, but I found it a tough re...more
Ethan Miller
An amazing and beautiful ride! It would seem that Algren's name no longer rings in the counter culture lit canon the way that writers like Kerouac, Hunter S Thompson, Hubert Selby Jr, Bukowski, Pynchon and Burroughs do though you can find elements of all these writers by chance or by influence in Walk On The Wild Side. WOTWS is surely one of the great well springs from which tales of the American underbelly, druggy lit, road lit and even gonzo and many aspects of post modern writing would flow f...more
Sumner Wilson
What did I think? Thought it was great.

A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren is a crazy rollick through New Orleans in 1930-'31, in that era. Published in '56. Crest books reprinted it in paperback in '62.

We follow the insane adventures--misadventures--of Dove Linkhorn, a red-neck illiterate from Aurora, Texas, by rail. Freight, that is, in boxcars he jumps on his way out of town. He splits from Aurora because of a fall from grace from the gal he falls in love with, Terasina, his employer....more
Dove Linkhorn, son of a preacher, is an uneducated sixteen year old on the Texas Mexican border. He asis a Mexican waitress, Terasina, to teach him to read the Sunday papers. He does mechanical work for truckers who stop at the restaurant and is so green that after doing lengthy work for one trucker, when asked his price, Dove gives such a low figure that Terasina corrects him. She tells the trucker a more realistic price and reminds him to give the boy a tip.

The novel describes the hard times t...more
John Defrog
By the strangest coincidence, I was in the middle of reading this when Lou Reed passed away. Of course the book inspired Reed’s song of the same name, which is part of the reason I picked it up. The other reason, though, was Hunter S Thompson’s reference to it in Hell’s Angels – taking Algren’s description of the Linkhorns as the metaphorical origin of nomadic American white trash, and suggesting that the Hell’s Angels were the logical extension of that lineage. Anyway, the book chronicles the a...more
Stephanie Griffin
A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE, by one of the most outstanding novelists of the 20th century, Nelson Algren, is another amazing example of his inimitable style. Here he follows illiterate Dove, a teenager from an outback town, to depression-era Louisiana (last century’s depression, not the current one). He ends up on Perdido Street, a part of New Orleans where prostitutes, the disabled, drunks, and cons mingled.
This is a critique on the unfairness of the wealth distribution in this country which contin...more
As a small rating note, I wish we could give half-stars. I feel like this was a little better than a 3, but not quite a 4. Still pretty great though.

But technical details aside, "Walk On The Wild Side" is an excellent portrayal of the seamier underbelly of Depression-era America. Prostitutes, pimps, drug addicts, and thieves all intermingle in what often appears as a mirror-image of a conventional society that is only occasionally interacted with, and in those circumstances only long enough to c...more
nelson algren lays a breadcrumb trail of three main characters (dove, a simple-minded wanderer; oliver finnerty, a pimp; and schmidt, a crippled wrestler) to lead us through new orleans in the early thirties. the book can be divided into roughly three sections: dove's wanderings; the brothel; and dove in prison. the characters tie together at the brothel, and their interactions with each other (and with the prostitutes) are at the same time comical and harrowing: the actions and dialogue are car...more
The writing was good but the subject was depressing and all the characters were sad. I suppose when a writer accurately depicts a time and can write in a style that matches his characters it should be considered great but I gave up after a couple hundred pages of the depression.
Christopher Flynn
This book meant a lot to me a long time ago. It's an intensely written, sardonic, cynical, angry and lyrical book. All of those things, not necessarily in that order. It was the type of book I needed back then, or at least that I felt drawn to.

The voice is intense and fully realized, which is a great thing in a novel (obviously). The voice is more important than the plot, which I hardly remember at this point. Sort of like On the Road if Kerouac had written instead of typed. I think that's a pa...more
And so, the most Chicago of authors takes a walk through a few other demimondes (word?) on provides his readers with a tour of America's sexual underground, circa mid-century. Algren is, of course, less judgmental towards the purveyors of sleaze than he is towards its hypocritical customers, which I suppose is sensationalistic in and of itself. The protagonist, Dove, is a simple-minded goon, more naive and gullible than actually innocent, which makes him quite real if not especially likable. The...more
Jul 20, 2013 C.E. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anybody who likes lit about the underground
Set amongst the hustlers/pimps/prostitutes and other such seedy characters in the French Quarter of the early 1930s, Algren's book is a winner. It doesn't judge its subjects' moral choices, only follows and describes their rackets, often in a prose that can only be described as colorful. Algren's style took me a while to adapt to--he's not always the most linear storyteller and I often found myself having to reread paragraphs or whole pages to find where I'd lost the trail or missed something, b...more
I love Algren's writing. It's great, and a shame he's not recognized for it as he deserves. A great underrated American writer and character with a very interesting personal history. This book is a great snapshot of down-and-out living in the South during the depression, complete with a wonderful cast of characters and all of the beauty and horrors associated with their lives.

Additionally, it's very interesting how Algren's writing is largely color-blind and full of miscegenation which was not...more
May 19, 2012 Patty rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the strong hearted
A beautiful and poetic look at the underbelly of New Orleans during the Depression. I enjoy naturalism and this is the best of the best. It's essentially the story of a young man who leaves his bible-thumping family to make his way in NO, where no one is making it big, except the most corrupt. There are lots no n'er do wells, lost souls, gals abandoned to the streets, creepy condom makers and sad drunks. There is no happy ending, but the writing is beautiful and prose poetic. I loved it.
Great for the context it explores and the path it fashioned for writers that followed. Structurally wanting, but packed with some pretty great moments as it peels back the curtains on the darker truths of our society.

I'm at odds with myself on this one from a literary standpoint. I have waffled between 3 and 4 stars several times as I have typed this. Still, read it with context in mind and you will likely find it a a somewhat bumpy, but rewarding ride.
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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
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“Never sleep with someone whose troubles are worse than your own.” 91 likes
“Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.” 21 likes
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