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Ironweed (The Albany Cycle #3)

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  13,278 Ratings  ·  524 Reviews
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is now a movie directed by Hector Babenco ( Kiss of the Spider Woman) starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Nicholson plays Francis Phelan, ex-ballplayer, part-time gravedigger, full-time drunk, a man trying to make peace with the ghosts of his past and present. 8 pages of photos.
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 7th 1984 by Turtleback Books (first published 1983)
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B. R. Reed No, you do not. It is a stand alone book. However, it certainly caused me to read the rest of the Albany cycle of books. I really enjoyed Billy…moreNo, you do not. It is a stand alone book. However, it certainly caused me to read the rest of the Albany cycle of books. I really enjoyed Billy Phelan's Greatest Game and I read The Red Corsage earlier this year.(less)
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Community Reviews

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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 n
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

“Katie bar the door. Too wet to plow.”

Commercial Photography

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 ritu
David J.
Mar 25, 2008 David J. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loved the writing in "A River Runs Through It"
“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 be
John David
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 th
Narges Aliyari
کتاب با نام " گل آفتابگردان" و توسط آقای غلامحسین سالمی ترجمه شده.
کتاب رو وقتی در حال زیر و رو کردن سایت فیدیبو بودم پیدا کردم و تنها چیزی که باعث شد برای خوندن انتخابش کنم دریافت جایزه پولیتزر 1984 بود و الا تا قبل از اون حتی اسم ویلیام کندی رو نشنیده بودم.
داستان در مورد " فرانسیس فیلان" بازیکن سابق تیم بیس بال آلبانی (شهری نزدیک نیویورک) هست که به علت قتل یک کارگر معترض راه آهن تحت تعقیب قرار میگیره و مجبور به ترک خانواده میشه ، بعد از مدتی دوباره به خونه برمیگرده ولی اینبار یه حادثه دیگه باعث
Aug 05, 2007 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, poe ...more
Ned Mozier
Jul 21, 2013 Ned Mozier rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 homec ...more
Apr 01, 2009 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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 eve
Aug 18, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
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 s ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Ironweed, William Kennedy
عنوان: گل آفتابگردان؛ ویلیام کندی؛ مترجم: غلامحسین سالمی؛ تهران، نگاه، 1383؛ در 319 ص؛ شابک: 9789643511715؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی قرن 20 م
May 10, 2012 Sher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 arraig ...more
Oct 27, 2011 Labmom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: award-winners
The prose of this book is so gorgeous I could almost overlook that it's about a drunk, violent, nasty bum, his bum buddies, and their enablers. Almost.

Maybe there wasn't enough background to make the characters sympathetic? It's a really short book and I feel like some important parts were missing, or maybe they were alluded to and I'm not bright enough to pick up on them? Why was this bum so appealing to everyone? Why should I give a shit about him? That's what's missing.

I got all excited in t
Trenton Judson
Jan 06, 2010 Trenton Judson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was such an enjoyable read. I am finally deprogramming from all the University horseshit and I got entangled in this great story. Sometimes, I think that people in the English profession actually hate books, or at least love to hate them. I'm so tired of that with books, so many people act like they are dissecting a frog when the review these books, there is no passion and I find that disheartening. Where are the muck and the mud and the beauty? Well, I'll tell you, they are in this book. S ...more
Mar 15, 2009 Jon rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pullitzer
What an ordeal. The quality of the writing is undoubtedly Pulitzer worthy, theres no denying that. I think i must be somewhat of a snob however, I just dont enjoy reading about down and outs and people at the end of the road, with no light at the end of the tunnel. Give me a bit of escapism any day over a gritty dirge of a book, depsite its literary merits. It does make you think, and in some ways it good to see life from way over the other side of the tracks, to think that these people are all ...more
Oct 07, 2013 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: literary and noir fans
Recommended to Ed by: A Pulitizer Prize winner
When I was a kid, I used to see the ironweed blooming along the creeks and edges of fields. Many years later, I saw a novel by the same name had won the Pulitzer Prize. Now I finally got around to reading it, and I am glad I did. Francis "Fran" Phelan is an ex-ballplayer (a third baseman for the Washington Senators, my favorite team). Francis dropped his baby boy Gerald on his head and killed him twenty-two years ago, and left home in great sorrow and regret. Francis calls himself a bum, though ...more
Jennifer Ochoa
The novel is almost picaresque. Comedic, but in a wincing way (sometimes). Sad, but not melodramatic even though it certainly could have gone that direction many times. There were some really beautiful lines here and there. I loved the juxtaposition of those words with the world of "the bum": anything but beautiful. There is a lot of juxtaposition in this novel and that's probably why I enjoyed it so much. It's hard to pull off a novel that can be funny, depressing, hopeful, horrifying, bittersw ...more
Joey Gold
May 10, 2013 Joey Gold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company."
-Mark Twain

"Ironweed" is chilly, bloody, thrilling, darkly-comic; and far from a crime novel. William Kennedy radiates those adjectives seemingly without any intention to do so. There aren't any mysteries, villains in a traditional sense (and DEFINITELY no heroes) and the action, even when it's colored in whiskey and guts, swarms on in a somewhat mellow, true-to-life pace, an understated rhythm that mimics earth's true tempo. A clock doesn't t
Jan 11, 2016 Stephen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stephen by: it is on my all important winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
I can add another Pulitzer Prize winner to my list of READ PULITZER PRIZES. I may feel differently about this book later, but as of today I can give it three stars. It is a powerful book with a powerful message, kind of a "live and let live" philosophy in that I, Francis Phelan, have fucked up my life royally and all I have is my grief, so don't take that away from me. It is a very sad story as well, with portions of poignancy that make you want to grab Francis and tell him that his family is fo ...more
I usually love books about the down and out, and this book is full of some very haunted, guilty and broken people, but it all feels just a bit too melodramatic and humorless for its own good. And that isn't helped by Kennedy, who is a very gifted prose stylist, but just can't seem to settle on what style or perspective he's going to tackle these people's misery from. That kind of bouncing around isn't necessarily a bad thing (hell, Malcolm Lowry makes it work great), but it seems like he's just ...more
Jun 23, 2009 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Damn I loved the dialogue in this book. I wish it was a play instead. He gets everything in the words of the bums. Hey, bum: When they are drunk, when they are funny, when they are clever, and when they are dying and sad.

The prose was overstated for a bum book, but I grew to love it too. In fact, sometimes when reading this the mental, physical, and spiritual suffering of the characters was unbearable, it really hurt - but then it is completely compensated by joy a few pages later when an insig
Dec 23, 2012 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Joseph by: L. A.
Shelves: american-recent
Steinbeck meets Selby
Amanda G. Stevens
Apr 29, 2017 Amanda G. Stevens marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Why I Stopped Reading on p. 20: Some of the writing in that first chapter intrigues me, and I wanted to connect with the story of Francis Phelan, a man who is broken by guilt and unable to go home, who becomes a hobo during the Great Depression. What I wasn't prepared for (and through which I can't seem to persevere)--the omniscient point of view being used to hop into the heads of ghosts who are watching Francis from their graves, then back into Francis's head with a stream-of-consciousness tha ...more
Simon Mcleish
Jan 22, 2013 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published on my blog here in July 2002.

Francis Phelan left Albany in 1916 after he accidentally dropped and killed his baby son while drunk; after twenty two years living as a bum he returns, trying to make his peace with his memories. This simple idea is the basis for Kennedy's short but deep novel about coming to terms with the past; everyone has to live with the mistakes they have made (even if "what if..." is one of humanity's favourite games), and though Francis may have more ser
Apr 17, 2014 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I suspected Ironweed might be good based on the big sticker "Winner of the Pulitzer Prize" on the cover. Then again, I've read some pulitzer winners that were basically trash. So…I was skeptical. Turns out I loved it. It actually reminded me of one of those "Famous" short novels you read in school…a separate peace, catcher in the rye, of mice and men…in that they are basically about the happenings of a few days time. Things happen. Some are dramatic, some just move the plot. But in the end, you ...more
Adrian Stumpp
Kennedy’s short novel is divided into seven chapters. The first four chapters at their best are astounding, at worst, solid. The last two chapters are the most important to the story and the least compelling. The final effect is a reading experience that is thoroughly enjoyable coupled with disappointment upon completion. The protagonist, Francis Phelan, is well-wrought, complex, and believable. After killing a scab during a workers’ strike, an act which may or may not have been completely accid ...more
Jan 03, 2008 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in upstate NY history or depression-era tales.
I chose to read Ironweed for a number of reasons, primarily because it takes place in my hometown, Albany, NY. I also selected it because it was written by Albany native/resident/university educator, William Kennedy. It was the recipient of the 1984 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and was made into a major-motion picture. Though I did not see the film, I remember what a huge deal it was when they opted to film a portion of it at a dilapidated, old farm house about 5 miles from my own home, a scene tha ...more
Mar 19, 2012 Veronica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Veronica by: Modern Library's 100 Best Novels
I couldn’t help picturing Jack Nicholson while I read Ironweed and I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing. My viewing of the film version, however, was incomplete as I’ve never seen it in its entirety, but rather in bits and pieces, not as intended, but just how it turned out. The written version helped filled in the blanks for my limited viewing.

Transitioning from the ultimate indifferent characters in Tobacco Road to the utterly destitute ones in Ironweed was akin to stepping down anoth
Apr 28, 2014 Allan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the Pulitzer winning, second novel in William Kennedy's 'Albany Cycle', a series I was introduced to after a recommendation by one of my favourite authors, Willy Vlautin.

While reading the first in the series, 'Billy Phelan's Greatest Game' isn't essential to enjoying this book, it gives it a bit of context, and indeed begins exactly where the first book finished off, this time however focusing on the character of Francis Phelan, Billy Phelan's father, onetime Major League Baseball p
Persephone Abbott
I started reading this book and thought, "I bet Dennis Hopper played the lead in the film." I was close but way off because Jack Nicholson won the Oscar for best actor. This book for me was too 1980's -- that vibe of a then fifty something author writing about the new counter culture heroes which littered the 80's era but here in a 1938 setting. Still the writing was very very good. The story as it was told bored me. As I read the novel I kept thinking the story was just a few bars above a made ...more
Oct 08, 2012 Realini rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ironweed by William Kennedy

Ironweed received the Pulitzer Prize, it is included in The Modern Library Top 100 Best Novels and in the Western Canon of Harold Bloom.

I loved the book, but I had trouble with my visions. Before reading the novel, i had seen the movie with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. This is a big mistake I have made more than once.

I did not see all of the film Women in Love, but Glenda Jackson stayed with me and whenever Gudrun’s character got mentioned, I could only see Glenda
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William Joseph Kennedy is an American writer and journalist born and raised in Albany, New York. Many of his novels feature the interaction of members of the fictional Irish-American Phelan family, and make use of incidents of Albany's history and the supernatural.

Kennedy's works include The Ink Truck (1969), Legs (1975), Billy Phelan's Greatest Game (1978), Ironweed (1983, winner of 1984 Pulitze
More about William Kennedy...

Other Books in the Series

The Albany Cycle (8 books)
  • Legs
  • Billy Phelan's Greatest Game
  • Quinn's Book
  • Very Old Bones
  • The Flaming Corsage
  • Roscoe
  • Changó's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes

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“Love, is always insufficient, always a lie. Love, you are the clean shit of my soul. Stupid love, silly love. ” 13 likes
“. . . and what if I did drink too much? Whose business is that? Who knows how much I didn't drink?” 10 likes
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