Singing the Back Streets

Nelson Algren was a writer out of the Depression who felt that America should be judged by how it treated its poorest citizens. As an artist, he had a special vision and a singular prose, and he used them to see behind the billboards and the newsreels, beyond the lipstick, beyond the fear, into the lives of people left stranded by the American dream. He offers a lesson in what it means to be a writer in a society that believes commerce is virtue. More than Walt Whitman or John Steinbeck, more than F. Scott Fitzgerald or Dorothy Parker, he reveals the essential loneliness of the serious writer, never fooling himself with baubles and status, but staying with his subjects, the forgotten in society and his own alien self.
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Australia’s Shame
The argument against Australia’s treatment of asylum-seekers can be made as trenchantly on the basis of a single case as on that of a thousand

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Burning Down the House
‘The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming’ by David Wallace-Wells and ‘Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?’ by Bill McKibben
Real Americans
‘This America: The Case for the Nation’ by Jill Lepore and ‘This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto’ by Suketu Mehta
Keeping Up Appearances
‘The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts’ by Joan Biskupic and ‘The Company They Keep: How Partisan Divisions Came to the Supreme Court’ by Neal Devins and Lawrence Baum

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Table of contents