Tuesday July 7th, 2009

It Ain’t So, It Ain’t Like That

Speaking of Nelson Algren (in the post below), here’s an interview with him from the Paris Review in 1955. In this excerpt, he’s been asked about the heroin users he hung out with while writing The Man with the Golden Arm, and whether they were bothered by his “eavesdropping”:

. . . they were mostly amused by it. Oh, they thought it was a pretty funny way to make a living, but — well, one time, after the book came out, I was sitting in this place, and there were a couple of junkies sitting there, and this one guy was real proud of the book; he was trying to get this other guy to read it, and finally the other guy said he had read it, but he said, “You know it ain’t so, it ain’t like that.” There’s a part in the book where this guy takes a shot, and then he’s talking for about four pages. This guy says, “You know it ain’t like that, a guy takes a fix and he goes on the nod, I mean, you know that.” And the other guy says, “Well, on the other hand, if he really knew what he was talking about, he couldn’t write the book, he’d be out in the can.” So the other guy says, “Well, if you mean, is [the book] all right for squares, sure, it’s all right for squares.” So, I mean, you have to compromise.