In this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the third in Kennedy’s Albany cycle, Francis Phelan, ex-ballplayer, part-time gravedigger, and full-time bum with the gift of gab, has hit bottom. Years earlier he’d left Albany after he dropped his infant son accidentally, and the boy died. 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 present.
When it was built, the Phelan mansion was the only home on the block. In the decades since, countless tragedies have swept through its rambling halls, but no matter how many times its foundations have been rocked, the old house still stands. Now, in 1958, its sole occupants are the eccentric old painter Peter Phelan and his illegitimate son, Orson, who sees all—but says nothing. When Peter invites his remaining family to hear him read his will aloud, it forces the Phelan clan to reckon with the most powerful force in Albany: their own tortured history.
Unveiling a series of portraits inspired by family tragedy, Peter takes the Phelans back into the past, as far as 1887, forcing them to come face-to-face with the origins of the family curse. As the raucous narrative unfolds, Orson does his best to grapple with his roots, and the knowledge that the sins of the past can never truly be washed away.
William Kennedy’s eight-book Albany Cycle is one of the most ambitious projects in modern historical fiction, a kaleidoscopic portrait of a city whose heroes are its corrupt politicians, conmen, and thieves. The Phelans are one of the roughest families in American literature, and also one of the greatest, who “can claim a place beside O’Neill’s Tyrones and Steinbeck’s Joads” (Library Journal).
When William Kennedy arrives in Barcelona, his guidebook recommends taking the trolley around town—but the trolleys haven’t run in the city for years. He’s on his way to interview the novelist Gabriel García Márquez when, out of the corner of his eye, he sees something impossible: a yellow trolley running down the street. Márquez, however, is not surprised; like all great writers of both fiction and nonfiction, he knows that impossible things happen every day.
A remarkable collection from one of America’s greatest authors, Riding the Yellow Trolley Car features work from all stages of Kennedy’s career. Through each piece runs the thread that ties together his greatest works: a love and deep understanding of his hometown, the city of Albany, New York, and the good and evil men who have made it what it is.
Featuring interviews and essays on some of the most prominent authors of the twentieth century, from Saul Bellow and E. L. Doctorow to Norman Mailer and the legendary García Márquez—as well as insightful reflections on topics from baseball to the death of a prominent cat to Kennedy’s wife’s hiccups—Riding the Yellow Trolley Car is an essential book for all those who love to read, or live to write.
The newspaper strike has stretched on for more than a year. When it began, the Guild boasted over 250 members. Now, they’re down to eighteen, with only three truly serious about the cause. Their leader, Bailey, is a columnist with an outsize sense of his own importance and a hatred of scabs that borders on fanaticism. Married to a roller derby queen, but smitten with one of his fellow radicals, Bailey is on a path of self-destruction that could take the entire city’s newspaper establishment down along with him. And that’s just what he has in mind.
With the cape-wearing old-school Rosenthal at his side, Bailey embarks on a mad mission: hijacking the newspaper’s entire ink shipment and dumping it in the snow. But he’s hardly taken his first step when the scheme spins out of control, trapping him between armies of gypsies, scabs, and the wildest hippies New York has to offer.
Set in a city closely resembling his native Albany, the fiction debut of William Kennedy is “a bawdy Celtic romp,” foreshadowing the wit and imagination that marked his literary career (Time).
A penniless Irish orphan, Daniel Quinn is among the crowds gathered at the Hudson River in Albany to watch a legendary dancer aboard the ferry. But when the boat strikes the ice that chokes the water on this wintry day, awe turns to terror. Though the dancer’s life is lost, Daniel risks his neck and rescues her niece, Maud Fallon.
But just as he’s falling in love with the beautiful, passionate girl, she’s snatched away from him. As the years pass and Daniel continues his quest for the beguiling Maud, he will witness the rise and fall of great dynasties in upstate New York, epochal prize fights, the exotic world of the theater, visitations from spirits beyond the grave, horrific battles between Irish immigrants and the Know-Nothings, the New York draft riots, the perils of the Underground Railroad, and the bloody despair of the Civil War.
Rich with nineteenth-century history and filled with flourishes of humor and magical realism, this is an “engrossing and eerily profound” novel (Time) from an author who, in the words of Stephen King, “writes with verve and nerve [and] paints a full and lively canvas.” In the tradition of E. L. Doctorow’s Billy Bathgate or Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, it is a remarkable saga from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Ironweed.
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Ironweed, a dramatic novel of love and revolution from one of America's finest writers.
When journalist Daniel Quinn meets Ernest Hemingway at the Floridita bar in Havana, Cuba, in 1957, he has no idea that his own affinity for simple, declarative sentences will change his life radically overnight.
So begins William Kennedy's latest novel-a tale of revolutionary intrigue, heroic journalism, crooked politicians, drug-running gangsters, Albany race riots, and the improbable rise of Fidel Castro. Quinn's epic journey carries him through the nightclubs and jungles of Cuba and into the newsrooms and racially charged streets of Albany on the day Robert Kennedy is fatally shot in 1968. The odyssey brings Quinn, and his exotic but unpredictable Cuban wife, Renata, a debutante revolutionary, face-to-face with the darkest facets of human nature and illuminates the power of love in the presence of death.
Kennedy masterfully gathers together an unlikely cast of vivid characters in a breathtaking adventure full of music, mysticism, and murder-a homeless black alcoholic, a radical Catholic priest, a senile parent, a terminally ill jazz legend, the imperious mayor of Albany, Bing Crosby, Hemingway, Castro, and a ragtag ensemble of radicals, prostitutes, provocateurs, and underworld heavies. This is an unforgettably riotous story of revolution, romance, and redemption, set against the landscape of the civil rights movement as it challenges the legendary and vengeful Albany political machine.