[Read] ➵ Ironweed Author William Kennedy – Saudionline.co.uk

Ironweed chapter 1 Ironweed, meaning Ironweed, genre Ironweed, book cover Ironweed, flies Ironweed, Ironweed dda2eaf21a11b 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 SonNow, In , 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

10 thoughts on “Ironweed

  1. says:

    Treasure of the Rubbermaids 19 Big Rock Candy Mountain The on going discoveries of priceless books and comics found in a stack of Rubbermaid containers previously stored and forgotten at my parent s house and untouched for almost 20 years Thanks to my father dumping them back on me, I now spend my spare time unearthing lost treasures from their plastic depths.Francis Phelan is living the romantic life of a hobo during the Great Depression Drifting from town to town by hopping trains and with no responsibilities to tie him down, Francis enjoys the company of his fellow bums as they share cans of beans and jugs of wine.OK, that s bullshit Any notions of the hobo lifestyle having some kind of appeal are dealt with quickly and brutally here Francis s existence is a daily grind of trying to avoid freezing or starving to death, and a hobo s corpse quickly becomes food for wild dogs With few teeth left in his head and a simple shoestring being beyond his means, Francis dispels the myth of the carefree hobo Particularly cringe worthy is a scene in which he is trying to take advantage of a visit to a friend s apartment by cleaning himself up and his underwear falls to pieces when he tries to wash them in the sink Think about how skeevy those drawers had to be and tell me you want to hang out by the campfire under the bridge.Francis is also dealing with a fair amount of guilt He hit the rails the first time after killing a scab during a strike, and while he eventually came home after that incident, another tragic turn sent him on the bum for good when Francis dropped his infant son who broke his neck in the fall Way to go, butterfingers His life as a hobo added to his regrets as the rough existence of a drifter forced him to kill others along the way As a wise man once sang Nothing beats the hobo lifeStabbing folks with my hobo knifeBack in his old home town of Albany, Francis is stuck trying to work off a debt to a lawyer and dealing with the many ghosts that his past has haunted him with He s also trying to look out for his hobo girlfriend Helen and his buddy Rudy Running into his grown sons provides the shocking realization that his family doesn t hold a grudge for him abandoning them, but can Francis ever forgive himself Francis story is sad and compelling, and he s an interesting character He makes no excuses for the things he s done or how he lives Despite his capacity for violence, he doesn t look for trouble He s generous with what little he has as well as compassionate He s got a kind of cheerful pragmatism despite the regrets he has.The story of Francis makes this worth checking out, and it s certainly well written, but I m a little shocked that it won a Pulitzer It seems very good, but not at a level of greatness that kind of prize would indicate.

  2. says:

    Find all of my reviews at Katie bar the door Too wet to plow Okay, since I m a robot that s a bit of a fabrication I did, however, get a little choked up and that s pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to me bawling.Francis has spent his entire life running Running bases after the crack of the bat, running from accusation, running from the calumny of men and women, running from family, from bondage, from destitution of spirit through ritualistic straightenings, running, finally, in a quest for pure flight as a fulfilling mannerism of the spirit He finally decided to run for good after the accidental death of his newborn son Francis hit rock bottom and became a vagrant He now spends his days doing as little as possible in order to earn enough to buy himself a jug each night in a futile attempt to rid himself of the voices of ghosts from his past I m sick of you all, is his thought I am sick of imagining what you became, what I might have become if I d lived among you I am sick of your melancholy histories, your sentimental pieties, your goddamned unchanging faces You ain t nothin than a photograph, you goddamn spooks You ain t real and I ain t gonna be at your beck and call no You re all dead, and if you ain t, you ought to be I feel than a little crappy giving a Pulitzer Prize winner a 3 Star rating, but It is what it is Here s the deal The first 75 pages and the last 75 pages of Ironweed are 5 Star worthy The writing is some of the most beautiful I ve ever seen and when you re dealing with nothing but horrifying and revolting situations, that s a major feat to accomplish , but the middle killed it You ll notice in my synopsis I conveniently left out anything about the character Helen While I found her to be a fine addition in order to add to the richness of Francis story and apparently the movie version really beefed up her part being that Meryl Streep received an Oscar nod for the role , I felt the book went a little off the rails having a featured segment of Helen s history along with padding Francis tale even further Even the prose changed in the middle of the book Maybe that change was intentional and I m just too dumb to get it, but it felt like a bunch of filler to me My other complaint The dialogue This is a book that is filled with elaborate description and imagery that really made me feel like I was experiencing everything along with Francis and then the characters started talking and I was immediately yanked right back to reality because the conversations seemed so stilted and read so false to me The exception The conversations Francis has with his ghosts now some of those were heartbreaking If you haven t yet read Ironweed and are already experiencing the holiday doldrums, I recommend keeping this pushed back a bit on your to be read list After all, no one wants to come to someone s house and find not only the turkey cooking in the oven, but the host trying to stick their head in there alongside it as well.

  3. says:

    The dead, they all got eyes I wanted to hate this book Portions of it are simply offensive Those portions, however, are significantly outweighed by Kennedy s ability to create beautiful prose out of objectionable material There are, no doubt, pages of this book that read like poetry The first chapter is a compelling introduction to a character that begs for your revulsion, receiving instead your compassion Francis Phelan is a bum, having left his wife and children over twenty years ago because of some poor choices and bad luck I still have not decided if Francis is a product of his own agency, or a victim of his circumstances That is why in the end, I cannot condemn him, although I want to He left his family.The novel is set in the late 1930 s and covers approximately two or three days of Francis return to his hometown of Albany where he finally attempts to reconcile with those living, all the while hounded by those who left this life either by his hand or in spite of it Francis guilt regarding those who died, whether or not by his hand, follows him through his attempt at reconciliation and redemption in the form of ghosts They appear to him lying in their graves, they visit him in bathrooms, backyards, and while Francis is in a congregation of other bums There is a scene where the dead seem to build bleachers and gather to watch what is arguably the most important portions of Francis story It is in these scenes that I stopped blaming Francis, although he never stops blaming himself It is the pursuit by Francis past, and the beautiful prose Kennedy uses to describe the filthy things of transient life, that compel me to give it four stars rather than three or two I don t recommend this book to anyone under 18, since there are some heavy adult themes In spite of those themes, I loved Ironweed for its ability to create beauty in the least likely of places.In the last few paragraphs of Norman Maclean s A River Runs Through It, the narrator and protagonist laments the loss of those he knew and loved in life, that he could still hear their voices in the currents of the river Ironweed is an example of Maclean s aching last line, I am haunted by waters In the closing pages of Ironweed, Francis finally comes to terms with his life Francis asserted his own private wisdom and purpose he had fled the folks because he was too profane a being to live among them he had humbled himself willfully through the years to counter a fearful pride in his own ability to manufacture glory from which grace would flow Unlike those of us who try to bury or erase the guilt of our past misdeeds, Francis comes to understand, My guilt is all that I have left If I lose it, I have stood for nothing, done nothing, been nothing In a culture where men and women so quickly become animals, Francis guilt is his last scrap of evidence he is indeed human.

  4. says:

    I don t particularly like being around drunks, nor do I enjoy reading about them But William Kennedy s Pulitzer Prize winning novel about a down and out ex baseball player, Francis, who sees dead people and is dedicated to his own pain and a life spent running from it, and his cadre of drunks, including his girl Helen, a former musician, is so finely and freely well written, sometimes funny, and authentic that I read it slowly with pleasure as well as pain this drunk was not dead, not dying, but living an epilogue to a notable life And yet, and yet here he was, disguised behind a mustache, another cripple, his ancient, weary eyes revealing to Francis the scars of a blood brother, a man for whom life had been a promise unkept in spite of a great success, a promise now and forever unkeepable The man was singing a song that had grown old not from time but from wear The song is frayed The song is worn out 49 50 And maybe my favorite line If you love something well enough, Grandmother Archer told Helen when the weakness was upon her, you will die for it for when we love with all our might, our silly little selves are already dead and we have no fear of dying 118 The book flows easily between reality, surreal reality, memory, and memory as reality in a Dubliners kind of journey through 1930s Depression era Albany, New York I ve lived in New York City for than forty years, so I have history that haunts me, attached to places both existing and long renovated away as I walk through neighborhoods where I ve lived and worked when I was in my twenties, thirties, and forties, or theaters I acted in when I was doing that For a long time I ve been thinking about writing something about this phenomenon of distinct former lives being so vivid that they still exist as one retraces old ground Now I don t have to William Kennedy wrote this as well as I can imagine it being done It s not a literary trick it s just really good writing worth living through despite my historical but still perpetual difficulties in the world of drunks.

  5. says:

    It is early Christmas morning before my family has awakened and I m warming myself by a nice radiator with all the modern comforts of a home and all my true needs basically covered Not so the character of Francis Phelan, who returns to Albany New York in 1937 after 22 years bumming on the road He tells this tale, the 3rd in the Albany series that I ve read in the last 3 years, with intricate detail about the history, people and physical geography of a time and place This is a tale about homecoming, and a completely unsentimental account of being homeless It captures what seems most true about what drives these poor souls to the road and what keeps them there It is told in gorgeous imagery and beautiful writing, from the old fashioned omnipotent point of view The result is an understanding of human nature, the conditions that trap us, and a mighty struggle for redemption the elements I seek most in novels This won the Pulitzer prize for good reason.Francis Franny is first born of Irish immigrants, 58 years old, and back after having fled his native Albany presumably to escape his public braining of a scab during a railroad strike and privately his demons from having tragically killed his newborn by dropping him during a diaper change Franny is still physically robust, though downtrodden and shabby in the ways of all hoboes, and observes his traveling companion Rudy p 23 as simple, hopeless as lost as Francis himself, though somewhat younger, dying of cancer, afloat in ignorance, weighted with stupidity, inane, sheeplike, and given to fits of weeping over his lostness and yet there was something in him that buoyed Francis spirit they both know intimately the etiquette, the taboos, the protocol of bums We I tend to forget that all humans, even bums, are human and have the same basic nature Francis has a woman, Helen, p 55 whose first true love .kept her in his fierce embrace for years, but then he loosened that embrace and let her slide down and down until the hope within her died Hopeless Helen, that s who she was when she met Francis.Helen was a living explosion of unbearable memory and indomitable joy There are many down and outers covered in this fine book, like Clara, whom Francis p 78 sees .the curve of her life sexy kid likes the rewards, goes pro, gets restless, marries and makes kids, chucks that, pro again, sickens, but really sick, getting old, getting ugly, locks onto Jack, turns monster But she s got most of her teeth, not bad and that hair You get her to a beauty shop and give her a marcel, it d be all right put her in new duds, high heels and silk stockin s and hey look at them titties, and that leg The skin s clear on it Franny sees that chance for redemption, but it is not easy for himself.There is a lot about Irish Catholicism in here, though not heavy handed and very fresh, such as Franny imagining his mother during his own conception p 99 .he felt pity for this woman, who had been spayed by self neutered nuns and self gelded priests As she yielded her fresh body to her new husband out of obligation, Francis felt the iron maiden of induced chastity piercing her everywhere, tightening with the years until all sensuality was strangulated and her body was a bloodless and cold as a granite angel Wow, and that s just part of one sentence Once upon a time 1983 or 1984 when I lived in Louisville, KY I saw this book made into film with the popular Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep My wife and I were big fans especially of Meryl and I m glad the intervening years had largely erased my memory of Jack certainly so I could enjoy the plot of this book So it was with fresh pleasure that I got to the point in this book where Francis actually gets up the nerve to visit the family he abandoned 22 years ago They accept him, surprisingly, in a most touching scene of forgiveness and mixed emotion as we get hope and Franny luxuriates in a bath and gets fresh close for the first time in a very long time We get to meet his son Billy of Billy Phelan s Greatest Game , the 2nd in the Albany trilogy again His wife Annie is still unmarried and he sees her tarnished beauty afresh, physical and spiritual It turns out she never told anyone, even his children that it was he who dropped their newborn those many years ago This pure, unrequited love, gives Francis hope, and he sits down with his abandoned family to a glorious meal But, sadly, on the verge of full confession, he feels doomed and hopeless contaminated, and his guilt prevents reconciliation p 160 There was no way he could reveal all that had brought him here It would have meant the recapitulation not only of all sins but of all his fugitive and fallen dreams, all his random movement across the country and back, all his returns to this city only to leave again without ever coming to see her, them, without ever knowing why he did it It would have meant the anatomizing of his compulsive violence and his fear of justice, of his time with Helen, his present defection from Helen, his screwing so many women he really wanted nothing to do with, his drunken ways, his morning after sicknesses, his sleeping in the weeds, his borrowing money from strangers not because there was a depression but first to help to Helen but then because it was easy Easier than working Everything was easier than coming home, even reducing yourself to the level of social maggot Streetside slug.During the week or so covered in this book, Francis is in constant communication hallucinations with those in his past, particularly those to whom he has committed violence He departs his reunion with his family, against their pleas, since there is just too much water under that bridge Francis has been sober for a week, and other than the ghosts his storytelling has been coherent and sharp On page 192, with foreboding, I read And so Francis began to drink for the first time in a week At this point the narration gets loose, the mean drunk monster is unleashed, and we abruptly see what those demons have been all about In the early throes of his freshened drunk, Francis has early visions of clarity and sentimentality p 204 where we get a glimpse of what it was like to be an immigrant in Albany in the 19th century from a conversation he once had with one of the oldtimers ..when he and the country were young, when the riverboats brought the greenhorns up the Hudson from the Irish ships When the cholera was in the air, the greenhorns would be taken off the steamboats at Albany and sent west on canal boats, for the city s elders had charged the government with keeping the pestilential foreigners out of the city The authorities there kept the newcomers westering under duress Later, in the ramshackle hobo town outside Albany, deep into his drunk, around a comforting fire, Francis is tempted to confess again his guilt for dropping his newborn son, but even then p 215 Francis s confession seemed wasted Mentioning Gerald to strangers for the first time was a mistake because nobody took it seriously And it did not diminish his own guilt but merely cheapened the utterance, made it as commonplace as Rudy s brainless chatter about bears and wizards Francis concluded he had made yet another wrong decision, another in a long line He concluded that he was not capable of making a right decision That he was as wrongheaded a man that ever lived He felt certain now that he would never attain the balance that allowed so many other men to live peaceful, nonviolent, nonfugitive lives, lives that spawned at least a modicum of happiness in old age And then, in hobo town, the government goons come sweeping in again and, like a hopeless avenging angel, the still sturdy Francis gets his bloodlust up again, swinging a bat in defense of his fellow bums p 218 and getting the old feeling back He watched with all but orgasmic pleasure as the breathless man twisted grotesquely and fell without a sound.Kennedy knows how to finish as p 224 the escaped Francis is tidying up loose ends, preparing for yet another launch, now told as forgone, inevitable Then he would walk out of Helen s room, leaving the light burning He would walk down the hall to the landing, salute the night clerk, who would be dozing in his chair, and then he would reenter the cold and living darkness of the light The end is ambiguous, as he rattles in a boxcar heading south, where Francis either 1 throws himself off the train and in his dying brain imagines a heaven of living back with wife and family 2 departs the train and actually returns to said halcyon or 3 continues his active fantasy life as he rides the rails to his next adventure This ending is satisfying to me, because this is an epic tale that keeps the mystery intact and reminds us that we are all one step, once decision, one chance encounter from a life of hope and meaning and the alternative Thank you William Kennedy for educating, informing and entertaining me This is why I read As I ve said before, this actual book has been on my shelf for 30 years and gave up to me a postcard from that time from my dear departed grandmother, a woman who lived through most of these times 1937 and would have no illusions about human nature and its loveliness and cruelty that never changes She gave me that love that Francis so undeservedly was yielded by his family, and her place and time is forever etched on my mind from the mundane to the spiritual.

  6. says:

    Francis Phelan, a bum day laboring in an Albany cemetery, inadvertently stumbles upon his baby son s grave The same son who slipped through Francis fingers years ago Six feet below, the child stirs and decides that Francis path to redemption and self forgiveness is about to begin This begins the brilliantly written tale of Francis and his hobo girlfriend Helen They spend most of their time trying to find shelter, money, and drink But Francis past is always calling Evocative imagery, poetic language, and a charming main character are the highlights of this Pulitzer winner Certain elements of the story, particularly the wrap up, are a little pat but it is still a must read.

  7. says:

    Though it s just been a few months since I read this wonderful book, I find myself barely able to remember what actually happened in it I do remember actually laying in bed at night and crying during several passages, though, and thinking that it was one of the best things that I had read in a long time The fiction that I ve been randomly pulling off my shelves has been really good to me this year.This is part of William Kennedy s multi volume Albany Trilogy, which would now be better named the Albany Cycle The subject matter didn t immediately speak to me, and sounded depressing which it is A Depression era man named Francis Phelan lives in Albany, New York who leaves his family in shame after accidentally dropping and killing his infant son, and has decided to live on the streets The rest of the novel is about meeting characters from his past, both alive and dead In fact, one of the major themes is summed up by Kennedy in the first extraordinarily beautiful paragraph of the book Riding up the winding road of Saint Agnes Cemetery in the back of the rattling old truck, Francis Phelan became aware that the dead, even than the living, settled down in neighborhoods The truck was suddenly surrounded by fields of monuments and cenotaphs of kindred design and striking size, all guarding the privileged dead But the truck moved on and the limits of mere privilege became visible, for here now came the acres of truly prestigious death illustrious men and women, captains of life without their diamonds, furs, carriages, and limousines, but buried in pomp and glory, vaulted in great tombs built like heavenly safe deposit boxes, or parts of the Acropolis And ah yes, here too, inevitably, came the flowing masses, row upon row of them under simple headstones and simpler crosses Here was the neighborhood of the Phelans I was unable to put it down after those few sentences.The dead have a life uniquely their own, which they sometimes use to haunt the living In fact, some of the major characters in the novel are dead.James Atlas has said that his Kennedy s cycle of Albany novels is one of the great resurrections of place in our literature I can t help but agree Robert Towers, in the New York Times Book Review, said it s a kind of fantasia on the strangeness of human destiny, on the mysterious ways in which a life can be transformed and sometimes redeemed Sometimes, despite all the mulling I do over what I read, I simply have to leave it to people who have the words better words than I have, certainly.

  8. says:

    I made a decision a few weeks ago that I would read all the Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction, beginning in the year I was born 1984 and continuing through the present I always know what s next, the mix of authors and material is varied, and I will finally get around to reading some things I know I should have gotten to long ago Ironweed, as you may have figured out, was the 1984 winner.In it, Kennedy tells the story of a bum who was once a well liked ball player and family man but lost everything as a result of a series of accidents and poor decisions The novel explores the ways that humanity, wealth, comfort, religion, morality, intimacy and identity all exist relative to poverty and his characters closeness to it, and are colored by it This novel is tragic, humorous, gritty and hopeful at turns, but accomodates all of these contradictions gracefully, because Kennedy is incredibly adept at giving the reader a lens through which to understand each and every perspective he offers.

  9. says:

    Some time ago, a man in our area took his little boy deer hunting on a cold winter morning The boy must have been about 4 years old He had fallen asleep and was secured into his car seat when the dad left for a while to go deer spotting When he got back, the boy was gone He was found sometime later, not too far from the truck, frozen to death I can only imagine the grief this poor man must have experienced On top of that, he was charged with negligent homicide On the morning of his arraignment, the man told his friends he would be back in time for it, but he just wanted to go up to the spot where his baby had died When he got there, he took his own life I do not judge this man for what he did Fact is, I would probably have done the same thing if it had happened to me How could you resume your life as a responsible, contributing adult after something like that That is the feeling tone of Ironweed It is a dark, dirty, sordid and sad story Francis Phelan was on a long journey away from the circumstances of his existence, but eventually found himself trying to go home We worry about so many stupid things, but Fran and his compatriots only worried about two 1 Where will I sleep tonight And 2 Where and when will I find something to eat Those are pretty basic levels on Maslow s hierarchy of needs Still, Fran shows some hope for a normal life in the face of acceptance and love from the family he abandoned 22 years earlier I do not recommend this book to just anyone It is beautifully written, but deals with a dark and somber story among the seedier members of society Not much about it is light hearted or happy It is a long ride through much pain and sorrow before even a glimmer of hope is found Nevertheless, the book ends with us having reason to hope that Francis at last finds a modicum of peace within the shelter of his family s love I learned so much from this book on so many levels I am glad I read it, even though it is a dark novel and somewhat depressing I just can t even imagine living the kind of life that these homeless people live I am so sad for them.

  10. says:

    This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is just like a Tom Waits song The prose is lovely and the characters are down and out It is the story of Francis Phelan, an alcoholic bum who returns to his hometown, Albany, in 1938 There he meets up with his companion of many years, Helen, another alcoholic drifter In Albany, Francis ends up confronting the ghosts of his past, his guilt, remorse, and sorrow Kennedy gives Francis and Helen s brokenness a warmth and beauty completely free of judgement and sentimentality.

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