William Kennedy 1928–
Labeled a regionalist writer in a positive sense, Kennedy has succeeded in putting Albany, New York, on America's literary map. In the three novels of his Albany cycle, Legs (1976), Billy Phelan's Greatest Game (1978), and Ironweed (1982), Kennedy has created what Paul Gray calls a "geography of the imagination." Focusing on depression-era Albany, Kennedy sympathetically but unsentimentally portrays its politicians, journalists, gamblers, and its down-and-out "low-life" people. As a life-long resident, Kennedy knows the city well. He was a former reporter for the Albany Times Union and has been an English professor in that city at State University of New York.
Although most critics enthusiastically praise his fourth novel, Ironweed, Kennedy's earlier fiction received mixed appraisals. The Ink Truck (1969), a fast-paced black comedy about a newspaper strike, was considered promising by one critic in its blend of fantasy and reality, but another contended that its surrealistic elements were unnecessary. Similarly, Legs was denounced by some as tedious and ambiguous in its moral stand, but others viewed it as a skillful, vigorous novel. In general, however, most critics find Kennedy's characterizations and dialogue outstanding and suggest he has finally realized his potential in Ironweed, winner of the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award.
(See also CLC, Vol. 6 and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 85-88.)