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Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Blog

Nelson Algren Committee Hosts 25th Annual Birthday Party

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Tonight, for the 25th straight year, the Nelson Algren Committee will celebrate the author’s birthday at 2418 W. Bloomingdale. It’s open to the public, with a suggested donation to the committee of ten bucks (five for students).

The party, which runs from 7 until around 10:30 p.m., will have a little of everything—music, literary readings, even a film preview (The End is Nothing, the Road is All). Donna Blue Lachman, Nate Herman, Mark Dvorak, Roberto Lopez, Mary Wisniewski, Tom Palazzolo, Christopher Corbett, Marc Blottner, Denis Mueller and Bob Swan are among the many featured guests. The evening is dedicated to folk legend Pete Seeger.

A group of longtime Wicker Park/Bucktown residents formed the Nelson Algren Committee in late 1989 and the next year hosted the first birthday party. That one was at the Bop Shop, on Division and Wood, and remained there until the nightclub closed almost ten years later.

“They understood how [Algren] was part of the cultural and political history of the area, which was starting to gentrify and attract a new generation of artistic and political-minded residents,” says Nina Gaspich, a veteran committee member.

Over the years, the event has featured such illustrious guests as Studs Terkel, Art Shay, biographer Bettina Drew, Leon DesPres, Dennis Brutus, Leon Vandermark and Von Freeman. The party has maintained the same format for a quarter of a century, including the presentation of an annual award given to a person doing work the committee deems consistent with Algren’s “activist” roots.

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