Book - 1983
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Set during the Depression, tells a story about Francis Phelan and other inhabitants of skid row in Albany, New York. Ironweed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is the best-known of William Kennedy's three Albany-based novels. Francis Phelan, ex-ballplayer, part-time gravedigger, full-time drunk, has hit bottom. Years ago he left Albany in a hurry after killing a scab during a trolley workers' strike; he ran away again after accidentally - and fatally - dropping his infant son. Now, in 1938, Francis is back in town, roaming the old familiar streets with his hobo pal, Helen, trying to make peace with the ghosts of the past and the present.
Publisher: New York : Viking Press, 1983
ISBN: 9780670401765
Characteristics: 227 pages ; 22 cm


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Jul 19, 2014

The quality of the writing was excellent but I found the plot rather monotonous and I was skipping over large parts and worse yet, I skipped to the ending. Never a good sign.

Jul 19, 2014

"He smelled the odor that came up from his fetid crotch and stood up then and dropped his trousers. . .He lifted the toilet cover and sat on the seat, and with Jack's soap and handfuls of water from the bowl, he washed his genitals and buttocks, and all their encrusted orifices, crevices, and secret folds."
I suppose this is a good example of what is sometimes called "dirty realism." And this is a book about dirty, unhappy people living in Albany, where many of Kennedy's books are set, during the depression. It was highly acclaimed when it came out, winning the Pulitzer, finding a place in Bloom's Western Canon, and becoming a film with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. I found it well-written, but a bit like Bukowski without the vulgar humor.
"These Albany novels will be memorable, a distinguished group of books."-Saul Bellow.


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