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O Albany!

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  143 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Kennedy's O Albany! is in part the non-fictional stories he covered in his novels, Legs and Billy Phelan's Greatest Game. Kennedy retells the exploits of the bootlegger Jack 'Legs' Diamond, the bungled 1933 kidnapping of John O'Connell, Jr., heir to the Albany Democratic machine and explores the Albany of his past, including its demographics and vanished neighborhoods.
Paperback, 432 pages
Published September 3rd 1985 by Penguin Books (first published 1983)
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Nick
This book is a mess. I read a review that states that a "straightforward, chronological history" - you know, the kind that makes sense - would "waste Kennedy's storytelling talents"; So instead here's this, which seems like Kennedy sat down with a tape recorder, then took his rambling and slapped the whole thing into a book. I just couldn't follow this book at all; On one page we're in 1890, the next page it's 1916, the page after that World War I has just ended, and the page after that we're in ...more
E. C. Koch
At no point did this book know what it wanted to be, where it was going, or what time it was. Kennedy shifts so quickly (and without warning) from history to memoir, from politics to humor, from century to century, that the spell never takes over and you're stuck just looking at words. I mean it's as if he intentionally eschews any organizational techniques here. I think that I wanted this to be a history of the city, but really what I got was a collection of memories; a people's history written ...more
Michael
You may not really care about the history of Albany (I didn't) but if you have enjoyed the author's novels you will probably like this lively account of Kennedy's personal past as well as the historical and political past and present. That is, at the time of publication of course. Kennedy's prose is always entertaining as is his obvious affection for the city and all its foibles. The hugely corrupt city and county politics are truly astounding to consider. But New York's capital perseveres and s ...more
Amy Primeau
This book was written in 1983. It took a while to train my mind that the "now" the author mentions was 30 years ago. In that respect, it is very dated. There were some parts where it dragged, getting bogged down in specific people from the author's past. But it was for the most part, interesting and I did learn some things about Albany. If you realize you don't have to read every single word (and thus feel bogged down), it is a decent read.
Kathryn
oh my, I forgot that I am actually still reading this book... I found it in the car today, piled underneath some diapers (clean, of course...) Lets just say, I'm working my way through slowly. I dont know why I bother. Probably some sort of misplaced obligation to read books about my home town. But the funny thing is, Kennedy's writing is so arcane and unavailable, I can't for the life of me, figure out the where the precise neighborhoods he's talking about actually are! His maps are shit, and t ...more
Pam
Jun 08, 2012 Pam rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: history, ny, pam
For many William Kennedy is considered almost a mythical author, who has been able to bring history alive through his books like Ironweed and O Albany! While I too have greatly enjoyed his books, he is not without faults. While some authors handle footnotes well, I understand they can be a bit distracting when used in books for popular culture. That said there is no excuse in a non-fiction book not to have a bibliography. In addition William Kennedy’s fails to provide notes of thanks to any of t ...more
Tom
A rich, steamy portrait of Albany and its ethnic neighborhoods, providing a lot of material about the Capital City in its heyday, roughly from the Roaring 20s up to World War 2. People who have not lived in Albany may find it a bit disjointed. Also, as one might expect from a book written by a newspaperman, it centers on politics, with less attention to Albany's economy. Readers planning to visit Albany should schedule an hour or two at the city's Heritage Center, off North Pearl Street, for a b ...more
Bap
William Kennedy's Albany trilogy, Legs, Billy Phelan's Greatest Game and Ironweed is a paen to the Irish in Albany in the 20's and 30's. O'Albany is a non-fiction homage of Albany, the Irish, the political bosses, and neighborhoods before Rockefeller's depressing building of the massive and fascistic government center, highways, and other misguided urban renewal projects ripped the heart and soul out of the city.
John
Nov 02, 2007 John rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Maybe
Shelves: history
Finished it on the second try.

This time I read it in very small bites, one story - even smaller than one chapter at a time. That made it more digestible.

I'm glad I read it because of the many vignettes that I can relate to, but unless you like the style or unless you're a local it can be a struggle.
Jp j
A history of Albany, NY by a man who lives there and loves it. Full of characters of types who are fast vanishing. He also wrote Ironweed which became a movie with Meryl Streep and, maybe, Jack Nicholson.
Ezra
Only read a couple of chapters. While I'd love to learn more about this tortured city, seeing the city's history through his eyes is slow going and dull. Perhaps he's just color blind.
Michael
A lot of great stories about the history of Albany. I would've loved to see a couple of citations in there, though, if only to give the illusion of fact.
Tracy
Couldn't finish it.The beginning was good,but then i totally lost interest.
JFN
Entertaining. Informative. Transportive. Valuable. Beautiful.
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26090
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
More about William Kennedy...
Ironweed Legs Billy Phelan's Greatest Game Very Old Bones Roscoe

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