Tom McNamee at The Sun-Times has produced an eloquent essay on one Art Shay photo (top left corner of this blog, on the book cover), on the role of the writer, and on the lifeblood of a city:
If I had to pick one photograph that captures how I see Chicago, how I feel the city, this would be it. On an average day, I might tell myself Chicago is a pretty postcard of the lakefront. But on an exceptional day, I know this photo is the true face of Chicago, the town that taught me how to revel in a world falling apart.'Algren in his milieu'
The photo was taken at Halsted and Madison streets by the superb photographer Art Shay in the winter of '49, around the time Algren won the very first National Book Award for his novel The Man With the Golden Arm. Shay was doing a photo spread on Algren to pitch to Life magazine.
I first saw the photo in a book by Shay published in 1988. Now it's the cover of a new book by Shay, Chicago's Nelson Algren, put out by Seven Stories Press.
"It shows Algren in his milieu," Shay told me last week when I asked him why he chose this shot for the cover. "Imagine having pictures of Dostoevsky at work, or Tolstoy on his farm or Hemingway in Italy."