Thursday, May 3, 2012


Remember that talk about needing a challenge yesterday?  I actually do have an ongoing reading challenge which tends to get overlooked in the crush of more important stuff to think about and do.

I have to read from a list - of my own making - of books published in 1983.  This is all part of the Birth Year Reading Challenge.  If you want to know why 1983 - no it's not my birth year - you can go here for the reasons. 

A-anyway, I have just finished Ironweed by William Kennedy. In 1984 he won a Pulitzer Prize for this novel.  It is number three in a trilogy but I haven't read the first two.  I didn't find it necessary since most of the background is explained as the story unfolds.  Not sure I would say I enjoyed this book but it was intriguing.  And the characters grabbed me which, as you know, is the surest way to my reading heart. 

Ironweed is set in the Great Depression and tells the story of Francis Phelan's return to his home town of Albany NY.  He's been on the road for a long time, an alcoholic and a vagrant.   He works when he needs money for a drink or a flop.  His family is his pals and his memories.  He hallucinates and chats with people that he's killed in his life before he hit the road.  He was a baseball player with local fame. 

This was a slow and thoughtful read because I needed to savor the characters.  The memory of being with Francis on his journey back to his home stuck with me.  You really feel the grit under his collar, the grime of living from the back seat of a car to a flophouse to sleeping rough in a ditch.  His need for home and family and the fear of returning is palpable. 

Someone told me there was a movie made of this with Jack Nicholson.  As always, I'm glad I didn't know that when I was reading the book.  If I had been asked to cast the movie, I would have tried for Henry Fonda.  Just sayin'


Ginny said...

I have heard of this book, it is famous, maybe even a classic. I also remember the movie.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I haven't read this book but did see the movie. Sounds like the book is better.

Cindy said...

Now that is a challenge. Jack Nicholson has come up in three conversations this week, hum. I haven't heard the word flop used in a long time, lol

Rudee said...

I don't know of either the book or the movie, but when it comes to, um, crazy people, I do know that Jack plays those rather well.

EmptyNester said...

I've never heard of this one. DoodleBug is reading The Voyage Out right now and said she's having to make a character list to keep them straight. After I read a slow, thoughtful read, I have to read at least 2 that require no thought whatsoever. LOL

J.G. said...

Sounds like this one of those books that isn't fun to read, but you can tell it's really good while you're reading it -- which is a different kind of fun.

Glad the BYRC helped you find this one, that maybe you otherwise wouldn't have discovered. Your candle is burning!


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