ALBANY PARK — Nelson Algren's reputation as one of Chicago's towering literary giants has diminished over time but the author's stock is enjoying a revival of late, sparked in part by the documentary "Algren" — an ode from one Albany Park resident to another.
Filmmaker Michael Caplan, who makes his home in Albany Park, will introduce his movie at a special screening Sunday at Tortuga's Latin Kitchen, part of a neighborhood Algren-palooza of sorts that will also include readings from the author's works, a walking tour and even Algren-themed cocktails.
The main event gets underway at 6:30 p.m., 3224 W. Lawrence Ave., with remarks from Caplan and a selection of readings from Algren's prose-poem "Chicago: City on the Make" by local poets and artists.
Following the film, Mary Wisniewski O'Malley, author of "Algren: A Life," will lead a discussion of Algren's life and work.
Algren was born in Detroit but moved to Chicago's South Side at the age of three. When he was eight, his family settled in Albany Park — specifically the 4800 block of North Troy Street — where he was frequently teased for maintaining an allegiance to the White Sox, as legend has it, and went on to graduate from Hibbard High School (now Roosevelt High School)
Throughout his career, Algren's working class roots and Chicago's rough-and-tumble neighborhoods would influence his writing, known for its grittiness and unflinching gaze at the denizens of society's underbelly.
Where others saw ugliness, Algren found an unusual beauty, writing in "Chicago: City on the Make": "Yet once you've come to be part of this particular patch [Chicago], you'll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real."
Today he is perhaps best known for his 17-year affair with French writer and feminist Simone de Beauvoir, but Algren was once the toast not only of the literary world but Hollywood. He won a National Book Award for the novel "The Man With the Golden Arm," which was later adapted into a film of the same name and earned Frank Sinatra an Academy Award nomination for best actor. (Algren, for the record, hated the movie.)
Though not exactly forgotten in Chicago — a fountain in his memory can be found in the Polish Triangle — Algren's legacy has gradually lost its luster, overshadowed by literary luminaries including Saul Bellow and Studs Terkel.
In making "Algren," Caplan aimed to restore the author to a position of prominence, pushing this "champion of the marginalized out from the margins," according to the film's description.
Other Algren tributes:
• Nighthawk Coffee Bar & Tavern, 4744 N. Kimball Ave., has created the Full Nelson cocktail in Algren's honor, made with bourbon, lemon, mint, demerara and angostura. Bring in a receipt from Tortuga's on Sunday and receive half off the $8 price.
Table service will be available at Tortuga's during the screening.