For a time, Nelson Algren was America’s most famous author, lauded by the likes of Richard Wright and Ernest Hemingway. This new biography reclaims Nelson Algren as a towering literary figure and unravels the enigma of his disappearance from American letters.
...a wonderfully readable, passionately partisan biography ... In the course of making the case for Algren’s neglected work, Asher does something else nearly as valuable, which is to reframe—and to free from myth and obfuscation, much of it Algren’s own—the life: a life not just entertainingly full of incident but also inspiring and exemplary in a time when questions of art’s role in resisting the enemies of democracy and economic justice are newly immediate ... Asher devotes less real estate to critical analysis of the fiction itself than another literary biographer might ... In Asher, [Algren] gets the biographer any writer dreams of: thorough, smart, literate, and unabashedly on his subject’s side—a disciple, a role that puts him, as the book itself lays out, in excellent, even august company.
...[a] brilliant new biography ... Not every biographer of a writer knows how to locate the source of his subject’s creative impulses, but Asher does ... One of the strengths of Asher’s vivid, vastly insightful book is its joy at the achievements of its subject ... Asher’s biography makes clear the extent to which Algren became a victim of the paranoia of his times.
...[a] well-written and scrupulously researched biography ... Though he paints his portrait with a broad brush, Asher’s book is enjoyable not simply because it shows how Algren plied his trade or reacted to the world around him, but due to the little things Asher notes in passing ... Equally interesting, since Algren had a somewhat ambivalent relationship with the truth, is the way Asher triangulates different versions of a given event, such as the discrepancies he notes between Algren’s and de Beauvoir’s accounts of her last Chicago visit; the result is a reasonable approximation of the truth ... One can only hope that efforts of remembrance like Never a Lovely So Real will help to return the author’s star to the literary firmament where it belongs.