Riding the Yellow Trolley Car: Selected Nonfiction

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9780140159929: Riding the Yellow Trolley Car: Selected Nonfiction

Imagine yourself in a large, gaily festoooned trolley car, yellow on the outside, bulging on the inside with people you figured you would never get to know in your lifetime - people like Louis Armstrong, Robert Penn Warren, Frank Sinatra, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jiggs and Maggie, Diane Sawyer, Paul McCartney, Saul Bellow, Samuel Beckett. Well, here you are, with Mr. Kennedy as your concerned host, taking you down the aisle of the trolley car and introducing you, one at a time, to those figures he has met or wirtten about over the past forty years: a master of fiction showing you how non-fiction can become a high art form, indeed. With the author of Ironweed and Very Old Bones, and his other fable Albany sagas, you are in very good hands. This rich collection contains Kennedy's insightful book reviews over the last thirty years on such authors as Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Bernard Malamud, John O'Hara, Mario Vargas Llosa, Carolos Fuentes; literary essays on other authors and on his own writing; profiles of jazz musicians, movie stars, stories on the filming of Ironweed and The Cotton Club; and a moving soliloquy on the homeless that resonates with much force and timeliness today. Here also is Kenndy's illuminating unpublished interview with Robert Penn Warren, and his extended interview in Barcelona with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who also provided Kennedy with two original drawings that appear in this volume (along with some choice Kennedy family photos). This sumptuous gathering of William Kennedy's work reflects his credo about nonfiction: "I love it extremely well, I have worked in it all my writing life, and have enormous respect for its pitfalls and exotic reaches." You willpreceive Kennedy's love of it all when you climb aboard the yellow trolley car.

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About the Author:

William Kennedy, author, screenwriter and playwright, was born and raised in Albany, New York. Kennedy brought his native city to literary life in many of his works. The Albany cycle, includes Legs, Billy Phelan's Greatest Game, and the Pulitzer Prize winning Ironweed.The versatile Kennedy wrote the screenplay for Ironweed, the play Grand View, and cowrote the screenplay for the The Cotton Club with Francis Ford Coppola. Kennedy also wrote the nonfiction O Albany! and Riding the Yellow Trolley Car. Some of the other works he is known for include Roscoe and Very Old Bones.

Kennedy is a professor in the English department at the State University of New York at Albany. He is the founding director of the New York State Writers Institute and, in 1993, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has received numerous literary awards, including the Literary Lions Award from the New York Public Library, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Governor’s Arts Award. Kennedy was also named Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in France and a member of the board of directors of the New York State Council for the Humanities.

From Kirkus Reviews:

From Pulitzer-winning novelist Kennedy (Very Old Bones, 1992, etc.), over 80 articles, reviews, interviews, and miscellaneous pieces--``a chorale of my own assumed voices.'' Before, during, and after halting (but ultimately successful) attempts to find his fictional voice, Kennedy plowed the fields of nonfiction as a reporter, book critic, and pop-culture fan. These pieces have been culled from nearly 40 years of this work, ranging from a 1954 tongue-in-cheek obit of Langford, a ``Widely Known Albany Cat,'' to a 1992 tribute to childhood idol Damon Runyon. The quality here ranges as widely as the time span. A few segments might have been better left out (notably those dealing with his wife's hiccups and Diane Sawyer's blond beauty); and the early journalism, though highly competent, bears marks of being written on the fly and lacks the lyricism that makes Kennedy's ``Albany cycle'' of novels soar. Meanwhile, the literary reviews and interviews reveal the author's heroes and mentors (Ernest Hemingway, Saul Bellow, John Steinbeck, Robert Penn Warren, John O'Hara, and E.L. Doctorow), as well as his fascination with Latin American writers (an interview with Gabriel Garc¡a M rquez became the first biographical report on the writer in both the US and Britain). Appreciations of Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and jazz pianist Joey Bolden are warm and charming fan's notes but seldom incisive. Aficionados will be most interested in Kennedy's accounts of his first stab at short-story writing; of his relatives (including an uncle who served as a partial model for Francis Phelan); Ironweed's astonishing rejection by 13 publishers; two brief encounters with Hollywood as a screenwriter; and, of course, the hardscrabble, raffish Irish-Catholic Albany milieu that the author has re-created as lovingly as Joyce's Dublin or Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County. Not Kennedy in his best, heart-stirring fictional mode--but often funny, charming, and certainly indicative of the subterranean personal and literary roots that bore glorious fruit in his novels. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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