March 1, 2011
For immediate release
Nelson Algren Committee, (773) 235-4267;
Nelson Algren, City's Foremost Writer, to Be Honored at March 26 Birthday Party
The Nelson Algren Committee hosts the 22nd annual Nelson Algren Birthday Party on Saturday, March 26, 8 p.m. at St Paul's / Acme Cultural Center, 2215 W. North Avenue in Chicago's Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood, the center of Algren's fictional world. The Party is an entertaining and edifying tribute to the National Book Award-winning author of The Man with the Golden Arm, The Neon Wilderness, Chicago: City on the Make and other works that reveal Chicago from the bottom up.
The event also celebrates community artists and activists whose work reflects Algren's own feisty compassion. This year's recipients of the Nelson Algren Committee Award include artist, organizer and free speech crusader Chris Drew, neighborhood writer, performer and educator Maritza Nazario, media reformer Scott Sanders, and humane animal husbandry and food safety advocate Richard Wood.
As always, the party features a wide range of Algren lore, poetry and performance. This year's edition includes (among others) Algren scholar Mike Jones from the University of Connecticut; noted local poets Michael C. Watson, Gregorio Gomez and Paul Friedrich; musician/writer Josh Friedman, who will talk about Algren's friendship with his father, humorist Bruce Jay Friedman; hobo scholar and historic re-enactor Paul Durica; legendary blues and stride pianist Erwin Helfer; activist and writer Maureen Murphy, a victim (as was Algren) of FBI harassment; Franco-American novelist Delphine Pontvieux, who will read from the letters of philosophizing feminist Simone de Beauvoir to her beloved Nelson; music from the band Friends of Chloe, and performance by veteran Chicago actors Gary Houston and Richard Henzel. In addition, we will celebrate Algren's induction into the first "class" of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, and also salute his entry into the world (or at least Detroit, where he was born 102 years ago) with treats and a rousing rendition of Sto Lat, the Polish birthday song.
This year's event is dedicated to the worldwide struggle for freedom and dignity, from Cairo, Egypt to Madison, Wisconsin. Algren, who said that "literature is made upon any occasion that a challenge is put to the legal apparatus by a conscience in touch with humanity," would see the beauty in today's acts of spirited resistance. And we remember the passing 10 years ago of poet and Algren pal Stu McCarrell, a founder and mainstay of the Committee. Our sponsor once again is the Near Northwest Arts Council and NNWAC Director Laura Weathered, who for many years has hosted and supported this event.
Admission is $10 at the door, $7 for seniors and students with ID. Drink tickets are available to those wishing to toast Algren; complimentary snacks and door prize drawings add to the fun. Committee members Warren Leming and Hugh Iglarsh will MC this year's event, ably assisted by members Nina Gaspich, Alice Prus, Charlie Newman and Kurt Jacobsen. And the Algren "Mugshot Mug" will be on sale as a unique souvenir of a unique event.
When the Committee started in the late 1980s, Algren's work was out of print. In 2010, his books are available (even in the Chicago Public Library, which once took Never Come Morning off the shelves), he's commemorated with a plaque and a fountain, his work has recently been dramatized, and a movie starring Johnny Depp is reportedly in the works. But he is still under-read, under-appreciated and under the radar as illustrated by the fact that none of his work has been selected for the city's "One Book, One Chicago" program and the Committee's work goes on. For updates and more information, visit our Web site at www.nelsonalgren.org or call the Algren Hotline at (773) 235-4267.
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