CRF Blog

Interview of the Day: Nelson Algren

by Bill Hayes

Today is the 102nd anniversary of the birth of American novelist and short-story writer Nelson Algren (1909–1981). Algren is probably best known for his novel The Man With the Golden Arm, which won the National Book Award and was made into a movie. In 1955, Algren was interviewed by Terry Southern and Alston Anderson in the Paris Review.

From that long interview:

INTERVIEWER: Do you write in drafts?

ALGREN: Yes, but each draft gets a little longer. I don’t try to write the whole thing in one draft.

INTERVIEWER: How much do you usually write before you begin to rewrite?

ALGREN: Very little, I dunno, maybe five pages. I’ve always figured the only way I could finish a book and get a plot was just to keep making it longer and longer until something happens—you know, until it finds its own plot—because you can’t outline and then fit the thing into it. I suppose it’s a slow way of working.