… is a museum for tourists that perpetuates clichés about him.The Northwest Indiana Times reports that a new museum, which opened Sunday in Gary, Indiana, where Nelson Algren once had a cottage, is being advertised by a “huge 8-foot-by-10-foot photo” of him “leaving a Gary liquor store with a six-pack.” A founder of the museum said he hopes “the life-sized poster would become an attraction all its own, and draw photographers and selfie-takers the way Felix ‘Flex’ Maldonado’s nearby Jackson 5 mural has.”
To complete the selfie attraction, the museum will also have
a replica of Algren’s Chicago writing space with his desk, chair and the typewriter he used to write the classics “The Man with the Golden Arm” and “A Walk on the Wild Side.” There’s also a facsimile of the bicycle he rode around, including in Miller and took on the South Shore Line back to Chicago.
Ain’t that grand? Nelson, who died in 1981, must be doing back flips of joy.
Can’t help thinking of what he said, as reported in the New York Times, upon receiving the plaque that came with his 1950 National Book Award for The Man with the Golden Arm: “Clutching the plaque to his bosom, Mr. Algren assured the assembled multitude that when he had to pawn the plaque, he would do so in a first-class pawnshop.” The museum doesn’t appear to have the plaque or a facsimile. Which is tough luck for the selfie-takers.
Before I forget, it’s his birthday tomorrow. I’ll tip a glass to him. And, by the way, Nelson was not a beer-drinking boozehound, as the photo for the poster implies. His preferred drink was a dry martini.