Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide
"Ironweed" by William Kennedy
• Jesse Jackson first Black man to run for president
• Geraldine Ferraro first major party woman VP nominee
• Joan Benoit wins the first women's Olympic marathon
William Kennedy is an Irish Catholic Albany guy who once considered joining the priesthood. After Ironweed was rejected by 13 publishers Saul Bellow, Kennedy’s former writing teacher, shamed Viking into publishing Ironweed along with Kennedy’s first two out-of-print novels.
Kennedy was nominated for a journalism Pulitzer for his articles about the poor of Albany.
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Albany Depression-era baseball star becomes homeless alcholic, talks to dead
Dead infant son tells living father to atone and end his guilty, suicidal lifestyle.
Set in Albany during Depression era 1938. Centers on the lives of people on the fringe of society and how they interact as a community and with people with resources.
240 pages, 8 listening hours of sadness
Share. People with virtually nothing give their last nickel and scrap of food to others in need. It’s not hard to give when you have resources.
Focus is on the group that is arguably the most disenfranchised in society: the alcoholic and homeless.
Homeless woman figures prominently.
Takes place in white Albany. Catholic priest in shelter cuts no slack to anyone who arrives drunk.
Evidently there is something about a turkey that triggers forgiveness, so get a twelve-and-a-half pounder and make sure all members of the good are good with each other.
“Never mind that,” she said. “It’s over. Come, sit, tell me what finally made you come see us.”
Gather in a cemetery or a railroad station. Or set up outside in the most primitive way possible.
The term “bum” is used throughout the novel. What was your reaction the first time you saw the word “bum”? How did you react to the term by the end of the novel?
What other anachronistic labels have you come across in a novel? Heard in conversation recently?
What are the differences in the struggles of homeless women versus homeless men in the novel and in life?
How did you feel about the reaction of the priest to homeless people who arrived drunk?
Work in a homeless shelter and/or a soup kitchen.
1987 "Ironweed" film
Ironweed was published along with Kennedy’s first two novels, “Legs” and “Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game”in “An Albany Trio Three Novels from the Albany Cycle”
The other novels in Kennedy’s eight-novel Albany cycle are “Quinn’s Book,” “Very Old Bones,” “The Flaming Corsage,” “Roscoe,” and “Changó’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes”