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Dock

Ironweed - William Kennedy

I have gotten some great inspiration for books to check out from the Modern Libraries Top 100 and this is one of them. I had never heard of William Kennedy before but I was intrigued by the title.

The year is 1938 and Francis Phelan is returning to his home town of Albany in New York State for the first time in twenty two years. He left after the accidental death of his infant son and is now returning to Albany where decades earlier he left a wife and two children. Francis is a bum, a wandering hobo. Once a Major league Baseball Player who played against the likes of the legendary Ty Cobb, he now sleeps rough with his good lady Helen surviving day to day picking up casual labour where he can.

In this very short novel we witness Francis’s return to his past, his relationships with the other lost men of that period of the Great Depression, and the bonds of family and origin. The few days that the novel covers is peppered with Francis’s hallucinations that have been brought on by being a heavy drinker. He see’s dead relatives and people from his past as if they are actually talking to him and sat with him. Be it on a bus seat or in a residential street. Kennedy puts the hallucinations across to the reader very well, as he does with Francis’s humour and philosophy on life. A very original story and one that humanises the dispossessed of that era.

I have since found out that Ironweed is one of three books known as ‘The Albany Trilogy’. I will definitely look at the others. Ironweed won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize and It was also later made into a film starring Jack Nicholson as Francis Phelan, Tom Waits as his mate Rudy, and Meryl Streep as Helen. Not seen it myself but with those three starring in it it might be worth a look.

Very reasonably priced at £4.99 for the Kindle edition IMHO.
Late Doors

Any similarities to Bukowski? sounds like there might be, how does it compare ?
Dock

Late Doors wrote:
Any similarities to Bukowski? sounds like there might be, how does it compare ?


Ooh, tough one that. I think the character of Francis Phelan has a similar outlook to Bukowski, but with regard to writing Kennedy is more of a straight forward storyteller than Bukowski, who wrote a lot in the first person. As a lover of all Bukowski's books and short stories I find it hard to compare him to anybody else out there. I think he was one of the best and original writers EVER, but thats just my opinion. So in a nutshell, don't buy a Kennedy and expect a Bukowski. Both very good at their own thing, but very different in style.

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