David Gallin-Parisi's Reviews > The Man With the Golden Arm

The Man With the Golden Arm by Nelson Algren
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it was amazing

"Like drinking a sunrise out of a paper bag," a favorite quote of a friend which describes The Man with the Golden Arm. This book is like slowly sipping on a ragged sunrise, a very north-rising sunrise, blotted out by snow and neon signs, taking a long time to sweep upward. Algren does include few passages that drag a tiny bit. I noticed whenever I felt the pace slowing down, that I switched my focus from the character's jazzy verbage to the precise details of light, loneliness, and despair rendered by Algren's all-knowing narrator. The sadness vibe feels like a person searching for a clear view of the sky, seeing sunshine barely visible behind all the gray, snowy clouds of addiction and poverty. Also, the sky is blocked by El cars, fire escapes, stairwells, and concrete sidewalks. I felt my focus pulled downward, always scanning the ground of the 1940's Chicago landscape. I was disappointed not to learn more about Sparrow at the end of the novel because his hopeful, jokey, seemingly stupid - but smart - actions contrasted with the depression of other characters. The Bill Savage essay in the 50th Anniversary edition is also really excellent, illuminating a wonderful scene of the Record Head Bednar questioning the long line-up of people in jail. His responses to every person's answer are hilarious and worrisome. Bednar's complete lack of response to a preacher who explains, "We are all members of one another," is a source of continual reflection throughout the book. Bednar struggles and never understands the meaning of the preacher's explanation, that he is human after all, just like the rest of the people he questions, answers, and judges. This paradox of pondering everybody being human, without understanding exactly how that can be is one of the most interesting questions Algren suggests.
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Quotes David Liked

Nelson Algren
“Then the wooden benches along the walls, where so many outcasts had slept, would be lit by a sort of slow, clocked lightning til the bulb steadied and fastened its tiny feral fury upon the center of the room like a single sullen and manic eye. To burn on there with a steady hate. Til morning wearied and dimmed it away to nothing more than some sort of little old lost gray child of a district-station moon, all its hatred spent.”
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm


Reading Progress

May 15, 2011 – Shelved
July 4, 2011 – Started Reading
July 11, 2011 – Finished Reading

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