Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

William Kennedy insists that all of his characters—even the ones wh ocorrespond to historical reality—are invented. How do real historical events and characters impact one’s understanding of Kennedy’s fiction?

Kennedy has cited William Faulkner, James Joyce, and Gabriel García Márquez as three of his biggest influences. What evidence of their influence do you see?

Kennedy’s characters often communicate with the dead (Francis Phelan in Ironweed, Roscoe Conway in Roscoe). Is this device effective?

What is Kennedy’s vision of the Irish American experience in Albany?

Kennedy’s characters are often schemers and swindlers, bums and bootleggers, crooked politicians and double-crossing knaves. Despite their shortcomings, is it easy to feel sympathy for Kennedy’s characters, to root for them?

Kennedy is certainly among America’s greatest literary regionalists. How does he manage to evoke the feel of an entire nation by writing about the complexities of a single city?

What is Kennedy’s vision of sin and expiation?

How has Kennedy’s experience as a journalist shaped his career as a novelist?