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A Walk on the Wild Side

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,317 ratings  ·  117 reviews
With its depiction of the downtrodden prostitutes, bootleggers, and hustlers of Perdido Street in the old French Quarter of 1930s New Orleans, A Walk on the Wild Side found a place in the imagination of all the generations that have followed since. As Algren admitted, it wasn't written until long after it had been walked... I found my way to the streets on the other side o ...more
Paperback, 346 pages
Published June 24th 1998 by The Noonday Press (first published 1956)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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Dave Schaafsma
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Walk on the Wild Side, Lou Reed:

"Mr. Algren, boy, you are good."-- Ernest Hemingway

Walk on the Wild Side is set in Perdido Street in the old French Quarter of depression-era New Orleans. With its depictions of an array of prostitutes, bootleggers, and hustlers, it is wild, but also warm, passionate, edgy, angry, funny. He wrote it soon after hanging out there for a time, and, “I've stayed pretty much on that side of the curb ever since." Algren never feels
James Murphy
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'd not read Algren before. I'd known of him for a long time, but my primary interest in him was his connection to Simone de Beauvoir as her lover. Following her trail I'd read their published letters and then, early this year, the Algren biography by Mary Wisniewski. All that brought me to A Walk on the Wild Side. And I found some surprises there and took comfort in them, much like Paul Simon took comfort in the whores of 7th Avenue. First, I thought at times--not always--Algren's style reminde ...more
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: prose, 1900-1969
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
Ethan Miller
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
David Bonesteel
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Derek Shouba
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I greatly enjoyed the book’s picaresque plot, fascinatingly washed up characters, linguistic virtuosity, and local flavor. The book says as much about the atmosphere of the Great Depression as Grapes of Wrath and is much more entertaining.
The Literary Chick
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
If you like your characters damaged and your prose poetic, this is the book for you. No author does it better.
Anne Simpson
May 04, 2013 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Brian Engelhardt
Aug 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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! ...more
Jerod Duris
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
"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

Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read. In my utopia, Hemingway would have never made his way into the canon of great American literature, and Nelson Algren would be at the top of the heap. Gritty, brutal and utterly beautiful. ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible
I can't remember the last time I read something so beautifully written. Algren had an ear for the poetry of regional al speech and the wisdom of the uneducated.

the events of the story may depict an ugly part of society but the language is just So Beautiful. I couldn't put it down.
Vel Veeter
Sep 29, 2020 rated it liked it
This 1956 novel follows a down on his luck man as he wanders the street, tries to make it in America, and doesn’t quite know what happens when you’ve already fallen through the cracks and are seeking a life with dignity and purpose in a world that ultimately doesn’t care if you live or die. And given what the US was in 1930s, those cracks and that lack of care are quite big.

If I were to write a completely reductive book review (a thing I often do) this book feels like…what if Jack Kerouac wrote
Dec 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Algren's characters are compelling and it seems he has a genuine fondness for these hapless creatures. Not as "wild" as I had anticipated it is still a somewhat sordid tale of the impolite side of life. An easy read with a descriptive style that has stayed with me after closing the cover. ...more
I owe Algren a review. He's definitely skilled, and attuned to the bittersweet, to the chasm that occurs between feelings and behavior, especially when it comes to romance or dalliance, and perhaps especially with the down-and-out and poor. The sympathy comes across, but it feels not as if it's the narrator's sympathy, but only our own. Algren rides a fine line, as if it's simply his element, the stuff he breathes, and he places us right there, in the dried dirt of Texas and anything-goes New Or ...more
Sumner Wilson
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Forgot how friggin' GREAT Algren was. ...more
Stephanie Griffin
Jun 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Shelly Soukup
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ryan Holiday
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Victor Giron
Nov 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
May 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
If you want to read a book about down and out people who treat each other poorly, this may be the book for you. It's only redeeming quality is the author's beautiful use of language. Otherwise, it was too unrelentingly negative for me. ...more
May 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Excellent writing but unremittingly grim!
Feb 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I picked this up on the basis of the famous title and on the credentials which were pointing to Nelson Algren as the forefather of Ken Kesey and Joseph Heller (whose Catch 22 I haven't managed to read), as the writer for the underdog. I didn't quite realise how tricky a read it was going to be to follow the disjointed story with the narrative style jumping around, loosely following the main character, Dove, waving and rolling in a gutter-style lyricism. I also read it in different time-zones and ...more
Mickey McMichael
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was absorbing but gruelling too. New Orleans has always had a reputation for sleaze and funk and sweat and danger; into NOLA comes an illiterate bumpkin with no shoes, few morals, a father who scratches a living from fundamentalist preaching and racial enmity towards anyone who isn't white and Protestant and an urgent need to flee his one-horse town. There's little to admire apart from his resilience and much to dislike.
The passages in NO are focused on the lost souls, drunks, damaged, misf
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I wish I could give 2.5 stars...
The good: Algren's writing itself. His writing is lyrical, playful, and brilliant.
The bad: I couldn't find a single character in this book that I liked enough, or even found sympathetic enough, to care about. They all seemed despicable to me- sleazy, dishonest grifters with no loyalty to anyone or anything other than the next quick buck or their next fix- and I really didn't care what happened to them one way or another, so it made it kind of a trudge to get thr
Kurt Scillitoe
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Life is hard by the yard, son. But you don’t have to do it by the yard. By the inch it’s a cinch.”

I’d stretch to four and a half. While it’s so rooted in anachronistic dialects of Depression era American South that it becomes occasionally incomprehensible, it’s so beautifully written that you can just fall into it. The speech and slang becomes it’s chief charm and it delves deeper into a people than Steinbeck’s wrathful grapes. Not focused on a struggling family but a struggling everybody. Perh
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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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