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“Rich in plot and dramatic tension . . . almost Joycean in its variety of rhetoric . . . the novel goes straight for the throat and the funnybone.”
– The New York Times
“Astonishing . . . Kennedy’s ambitious vision and soaring imaginative powers make this book one of the richest, most startling, and most satisfying novels of recent years.”
– The Philadelphia Inquirer
“A beautifully sorrowful novel. Kennedy asks us again to confront the mystery of human behavior. And as he illuminates it, we share in one’s man’s struggle to understand his life.”
– The Washington Post
“Kennedy’s power is such that the reader will follow him almost anywhere, to the edge of tragedy and back again to redemption.”
– The Wall Street Journal
"A remarkable and most original novel."Alison Lurie
Top Customer Reviews
The book successfully employs unusual literary devices and great metaphors. These literary devices include (1) the "living" dead in the cemetery, (2) the seemingly real ghosts that constantly haunt Billy Phelan, (3) temporary shift from past to conditional tense near the end of the book, and (4) the mixing of vivid memories into the current situation which tends to blur time and place.
Kennedy composes many haunting metaphors. Here's one: "Helen now sees the spoiled seed of a woman's barren dream: a seed that germinates and grows into a shapeless, windblown weed blossom of no value to anything, even its own species, for it produces no seed of its own; a mutation that grows only into the lovely day like all other wild things, and then withers, and perishes, and falls, and vanishes."
The primary character of the book is Billy Phelan, an ex-ball player, full time drunk, part time grave digger, who has hit the rock bottom. Well again what is bottom - something which is half empty to me is half full to somebody else. Bill Phelan realizes the problems of his life but never puts his chin down. You will love the guts of this character. He suffers from his own misdeeds of the past and his past haunts him since he tries to find justification for all his acts except for one act. This one act is his accidental fatal dropping of his infant. Bill never tries to justify that act.
Sometimes that dialogue between Bill and his hobo friends reminded me of "Of Mice and Men" - all the dialogues are remarkable. Bill is like the character of Freddie Mercury (Freddie used to be loud and his acts defined him to certain extent but it was his song which immortalized him. You may not love Freddie but you cannot deny his presence in the music scene) - you can avoid Bill or hate him but you cannot deny his presence. He is like the pole of a magnet either you are attracted or repelled.
I like reading it and will keep it in my collection - hope you will like it too.
The opening chapter, where protagonist Francis Phelan and his friend, Rudy, work as gravediggers for a day is as great a piece of dark comedy as the scene where Hamlet meets the gravediggers. I felt a sort of uneasiness about laughing at all of Francis Phelan's wisecracks, though. We know that they all stem from a life filled with pain, alcoholism, terrible coincidences, and frustrated dreams. Yet, he is a generous man. He will give those even more down-and-out than himself the last bite of his sandwich or the last sip from his bottle of cheap wine. And it is this sort of attitude--slivers of hopefulness out of seemingly permanent bleakness, generosity out of poverty, humanity out of an unfeeling world--that gives the book its life, humor, and appeal.
Rocco Dormarunno, author of The Five Points.
Most recent customer reviews
given, i havent finished the novel, but the reading so far has been less than satisfying. this is so poorly written and disconnected from emotion, which is a culminating aspect of... Read morePublished on Dec 1 2003
This is not my favourite fiction- but I read it, finished it, and loved most of it.
A thin yet juicy work of art, IRONWEED is considered part of great American story-telling. Read more
I have to admit that I had never heard of William Kennedy or IRONWEED when I ran across the book on the sale table at a local book store. Read morePublished on June 21 2003 by C. Ellen Connally
I was a bit underwhelmed by this book- although that might have been part of the point. As it gives us a glimpse in to the tragic lives of a few locals, it also gives us a taste... Read morePublished on April 25 2003 by DC20009
This novel is highly stimulating for the mind's eye, but lacks the impetus to draw one's heart to any of the characters. Read morePublished on April 20 2003 by Garett Schmitt
There is alote about this book that I question. I do feel that it is well writen and worth reading, but I do not feal that it is up to par with most classics. Read morePublished on June 20 2002
This is a highly evocative book of the life of a skid-row bum in 1930s America--in many ways one of the most evocative accounts of this type of experience I've read since Grapes of... Read morePublished on June 15 2002
In "Ironweed", William Kennedy gives us an honest look at Depression-era homelessness, without either trivializing the hardship or glamorizing the dangers inherent in life on the... Read morePublished on Feb. 21 2002 by Angela Belt