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The world of the paperback. The University of Chicago invites you to join us for this series of 15 minute programs dedicated to the discussion of literary topics and the review of significant paper bound books each weekly program will bring to the microphone a different author or authority or educator with his particular viewpoint towards the topic for discussion. The book selected for today's discussion is conversations with notes Norgren Our guest is the author of this work. H. E. F. Donahue here is your discussion host from the University of Chicago. Robert C. Albrecht conversations with Nelson Algren How is it selling. It's like Kenny boy or the Yankees it's good feel to know his wife well. It cost $6 and 50 cents and it's about. 55 year old man who is not selling well today but I'm not at all been interviewed by a writer who is now 40 whom nobody has ever read.
It started out as an article. This is in the book started out as an article for show magazine. Interesting enough because Aldrin had made no money. I had heard a voice say of the man with a golden on the premise. Yes but it ended up that he got $15000 from John Garfield as a producer because all women wanted Garfield to play Frankie Machine and Garfield died and Garfield the state of things were purchased by Prime Minister also Aughrim. Another guy I work on a complete film treatment of the man with the Golden Arm for which they were paid $4000 and this happened the year that the man with the Golden Arm won the National Book Award in 1950. And so you know those days at least $50000 you know it was good. So it started I was an article and then all of them and I started arguing about this and that. And as I say in the book we immediately trusted each other but
completely disagreed. He's a hipster on the square. He's the anarchist. I'm the glue Joie. He's you know nationalist on the American chauvinist. So I thought of it as a paperback because he he we talked for two years on a tape recorder and I got 200000 words plus letters plus things he sent me things I sent him over a period of two years we got to like each other and know each other. What is good and why did you think of this as a paperback. Well there are two reasons One is that if I were interested in anything like this to read I would kind of go at it with peripheral vision I would buy it and say well I have to read that not because anybody else is reading it not because I have to read it but because it seems to me to be of interest to what I'm interested in as a writer and as a reader but also because all grin. Baldwin is a teacher. He's tried a couple of times as an absolute failure as a formal teacher but Aldrin teaches and Oregon is kind
of the underground of the underground of the author's organs influence on Goldberg for instance on the connection. What is how the guy who wrote a hatful of rain and a lot of other things were very interested in dope addiction and things like that these days. Walden started it all. Plus a lot of other things I hope I'm asking about. I happen to be like Waldron is from factory people. But we went different ways. We are about 15 years. I'm 40 he's 55. He was from Factor people I was from factory people we've gone different ways I end up as the ostensible establishment man and square although I'm I don't make a dime out of it. But he and he is the anarchist a loser a person who is still saying it's all nonsense and I am trying to say there is some sense. Anything that happens between him and me and anything that
he does anything I do because of our background we insist individually and respectively must have the widest possible exposure. That's why I thought that was a good idea. I see how and when did you meet Graham. Did you seek him out as you know I just heard he had made any money for the sale of this book to Hollywood and from it or my latest figure I have is three years ago a man with the golden times the movie grossed fourteen million dollars. And I knew that and I said we're all going what is this nonsense all going to spreading around about not having any money and everybody has to buy him a beer anon and 14 million dollars he must have a percentage of cider. No. Yes $15000 plus four. Well this was bad enough then he sold another movie two years later the Hollywood a walk on the wild side or walk on the wild. He got 25000 for that so I said why didn't you make more money for that. You have been through the mill once he said well I wanted to get a lot of money because I
wanted to fight to get more money for the man with the Golden Arm. And immediately I knew I was in trouble because I knew I was in trouble with a man who has complete contempt for anyone who is conned. But like most con man he is con and then it ended up that he and I both love this culture but we have completely different aspects of it. Is man of the golden arms best book you think or put another way more. Well I'm a lawyer I'm sure. Right and I think that's that's like saying to a lovely woman who's your best lover. You know I mean that's very hot. I'm a writer. The neon wilderness in my opinion a collection of short stories which came out before the middle of the Golden Dawn in terms of beauty in terms of technical perfection is better but of course they are short stories and busy letter short story writer than he is and know he's good at both. And the neon wilderness can stand up against any collection of short stories Hemingway short
stories who called him one of our best writers surely and grows by short stories compared to somebody like Updike or the red man and Updike as a kid playing marbles on the shore. Well going by the way thanks John Cheever one of the few points from which all and I agree is John Cheever's a master of the short story. Baldwin's comment is this. This too is in the book. He read the first line. Carol acts on the road where the guy said he was lying on a gondola and Aldrin says well I've been on the road good Allgood was a hobo a lot he said. A gondola is a cold car. There's coal in that you can't rely on coal it has no coal and then the doors are open on the bottom so we never read the second line of what they say. What with Cheever he said you read the first line achiever and you got to read every other line in the whole damn story. Well this is true for all grin stories. His short stories The man with the gold is his
best novels to date. He's now working on a new one which in my book he said he was not going to do. He said he would never again work on a big book for a while that critics once suggested Aughrim was a kind of natural writer in a sense that he he would write stories narratives without artistically shaping them with great care and this simply although that's a lot of nonsense. I asked him Are you a reader writer and he said oh yeah you know I think that rewrite. And then I asked him did he know about what James Thurber wrote to Malcolm collie about John O'Hara who interestingly enough Aldrin thinks is another great writer although they are diametrically opposed in all kinds of opinions. THURBER once wrote a column pointing out that John Howard would write a story and make pencil changes and Thurber was a bleeder rewrite constant rewrite server had a constant rewrite as does all the and as do law and Thurber's common to Cali was this must make young though how it was written 30 years ago some kind of a genius. All
good. It is a very true writer in that if you were to meet him if you were to talk to him it doesn't seem like a writer because he's a different man. A lot of writers who talk and act the way they write and they'll find something bloodless about them all going is as primarily a self-educated man which is not a knock. And it's and it's not even appraised because there was that joke there was a self-educated man but he knocked off work too early. Well LeBron hasn't stopped working so I'm going as a writer all going to work are all good is a bleeder as a writer. He works works why the subject to these journals and why Chicago why junkies so forth. Why this because he knows that this is the thing he knows best or is there something really knows he knows a lot about a lot of things he's a liar and he won't tell everybody what he knows. He Aphex a certain kind of subtle ignorance subtly. He writes because he has sense enough to know that if you want to
judge a culture you shouldn't fall for the easy ways to judge a culture either good or bad. Our poverty program. In Congress our dope program in in the major cities throughout the United States are different rehabilitation psychological. Even the you know the mental health programs that our affluent society is now instituting are just difficult missions of what all grin was talking about 20 25 years ago and is talking about today. He was talking about what really makes a culture think about itself and he still is he isn't and isn't a Chicago writer in the sense of some kind of local color. Not anymore than Yeats or Oh Neal were Dublin writers. And is this these writers who have been who you mentioned who've been influenced by all going have they seen this is what they've seen I gather. Simple scene a scene that the Dogon is
doing is not local color they think what he's doing is criticizing the culture and they see that he's getting into a kind of rock bottom in the college. I visited an old girlfriend from Trenton New Jersey where I was born and she is the epitome of the blue Joie. The Catholic culture I have left all of that even though all good although compared to all when I am blue Joie and she told me she had read the man with the gold on and she did not could not possibly conceive of how these people could exist. But when she finished that book she knew who they were and knew that they existed and it made her feel that all was not quite right in her quite right world. And that happened a year ago. Well that it's take the connection for example. This work is not simply derived from all ground. Not at all. No no no no. All go and Altman doesn't care about that. Aldrin is a relay racer who doesn't have a track.
Whom does he speak to. He speaks to anybody who cares about what he cares about and that's an interesting contradiction about over his personality because all of them would say no one cares and yet he can only work believing that somebody cares and believing that we are all what we make ourselves and we're all connected which is a good play on Gulliver's connection. I just made that up and I'm glad. You sound as though you learned a great deal from talking with Nelson on grammar. Yeah I learned that I was more of a square than I thought and proud of it because that's my gig my bag and I learned that he cared even though he pretends not to. He pretends not to care all the UN care about a damn thing. He says he doesn't care in the book as a big thing about it or at a literary party I said to him all these people who talk about the lack of love in our culture and they're all successful writers and all mean to each other why they all mean to each other and he said you
were very sentimental that PADI to understand everybody was putting everybody on. I said how can these people put everybody on it they say to put people on is bad. He said you're very sentimental. I got him let's talk about sentimentality and he said You must have feeling when you write. He's a very complicated person. Can one criticize a culture really unless one cares about that culture. I don't know. I can criticize the Irish culture in Ireland today and I am of Irish descent I think the Irish are good only when they move to America. I can criticize. I am what a friend of mine called the pros. But I am anti-Zionist. I think you know and you're right. And that's why you like the book because as you understand I got him. He's so critical of America. And I finally put it to him and said You must think this. You're not criticizing America based on other cultures you are criticizing America based on what you think America should
World of the Paperback
H.E.F. Donohue's "Conversations with Nelson Algren"
Producing Organization
University of Chicago
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features H.E.F. Donohue discussing his own "Conversations with Nelson Algren."
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This series is dedicated to the discussion of literary topics and of the publication of significant paperbound books.
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Talk Show
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Guest: Donohue, H. E. F.
Host: Albrecht, Robert C.
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-23-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:24
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Chicago: “World of the Paperback; H.E.F. Donohue's "Conversations with Nelson Algren",” 1966-06-26, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 2, 2021,
MLA: “World of the Paperback; H.E.F. Donohue's "Conversations with Nelson Algren".” 1966-06-26. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 2, 2021. <>.
APA: World of the Paperback; H.E.F. Donohue's "Conversations with Nelson Algren". Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from