Ernest Hemingway once said of Nelson Algren’s writing that “you should not read it if you cannot take a punch.” And yes, the prose poem book prooves him right. "Chicago: City on the Make" is filled with language that swings, jabs and stuns. Nelson Algren presents 120 years of Chicago history through the lens of its “nobodies nobody knows”: the tramps, hustlers, aging bar fighters, freed death-row inmates, and anonymous working stiffs who prowl its streets.
Upon its original publication in 1951, the book was scorned for its gritty portrayal of the city and its people, one that boldly defied City Hall’s business and tourism initiatives. Yet it captures the essential dilemma of Chicago: the dynamic tension between the city’s breathtaking beauty and its utter brutality, its boundless human energy and its stifling greed and violence.