I’m about done with H.E.F. Donohue’s “Conversations with Nelson Algren.” It’s an alright read. While Donohue’s questioning provides several pages of fascinating insight into Algren’s background, drive and technique, too often he leads the writer off on some uninteresting, unimportant, hair-splitting tangent. And nipping the more rambling moments with tighter editing would have been nice. But if you're an Algren fan it's ultimately essential reading despite the flaws... kinda like his books.
The following is a snip that I found funny for a few reasons, not the least of which is seeing how fast Algren transforms himself to a high-society type with his imaginary windfall. Maybe it’s not particularly egregious, given the norms of the time, but still, it's amusing.
Q: What would you do with [a million dollars]?
A: …It’s not unmanageable. I could use it and not even be conspicuous, not even be dropping money at the dice or the horses. It’d all be essential… I’d buy a home. I’d buy a place, possibly in some area like Cape Cod. It would have an ocean close and I don’t think that’s a luxury… Just a roomy place with a breakwater and a view of the ocean. And then I’d want a boat out there. I don’t mean a luxury boat. Something I could go out on the ocean with. And I would want books. There’s at least ten thousand dollars worth of books I should have. There’s all kinds of books. I don’t even have a set of Dickens. Now what the hell kind of writer is that? I should have a Dickens. It shouldn’t be cheap editions. I want a set of leather Dickens. And I want Alice in Wonderland. I don’t have a copy of that. Then you should have, you’ve got to have a family. I mean if you’re living you can’t go it alone. You’re nothing, you’re nothing alone. I mean what are you going to write about if you’re not attached anywhere. There should be a family and there’s got to be room in the house for the family. You don’t want to marry a broad for her domestic things. I want to take her in the boat. I want to talk to her. So that means kitchen help. There should be a woman who likes to cook there and there should be somebody to bring it out. Neither of us should have to be making a beef stew if there’s something better to do. And there should be liquor. You shouldn’t have to share a six-pack of beer if ten people come in, you know. There should be cases. There should be cases. There should be Scotch and bourbon and somebody to mix a martini. You don’t have to have a party every night, but you got to see people. There are people you should meet. You are living in the world. I mean, the way I’m living I never see anybody… All I’m saying is I want to entertain, with my broad, somebody presentable in a dress. I don’t want some dog there, you know. I want somebody that’s real, you know, someone who reflects credit on me. Somebody sharp.
Q: So you could say, “That’s my girl.”
A: That’s it.