Bootlegger of the Soul

The Literary Legacy of William Kennedy

Edited by Suzanne Lance & Paul Grondahl

Subjects: American Literature, Literary Criticism, New York/regional
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Hardcover : 9781438473314, 408 pages, October 2018

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Table of contents

Preface: Conjuring Ghosts with William Kennedy
Part I. About Kennedy and His Work: Reviews, Profiles, and Interviews

Introduction to Part One

The Sudden Fame of William Kennedy
Margaret Croyden
O Albany! O Kennedy!
Doris Grumbach
William Kennedy: Interview
Edward Schwarzschild

Human Capital: O Albany! Pays Homage to the Hard-to-Love City That Is the Greatest Hero of Kennedy’s Novels
Stefan Beck
Violent Places: On Ghosts, Bums, and Redemption in Ironweed
Robert Towers
The Literary Brilliance of the Opening of Ironweed
Donald Newlove
Rattling Great Yarn: Quinn’s Book
Fintan O’Toole

Family Values: William Kennedy’s Very Old Bones
Thomas R. Edwards

Bootlegger of the Soul: An Introduction to Roscoe
Colum McCann

O Albany! Roscoe and the Triumph of Kennedy’s Albany Cycle
Thomas Flanagan

World Premiere of Roscoe: American Opera at Its Finest
Anthony P. Radford

Jam Session: A Review of Changó’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes
John Sayles

An Interview with William Kennedy: From Novelist to Screenwriter
William Patrick
Photos: William Kennedy’s Literary Biography
Part II. Kennedy in His Own Words: Essays, Speeches, Memorial Tributes, and Creative Work

Introduction to Part Two

Why It Took So Long

Reinventing Albany in Fiction: Notes from a Native Son

Learning from Faulkner: The Obituary of Fear

Gifts from Joyce

Saul Bellow In Memoriam (1915–2005): A Great Insistent Gift

A Nonpareil Force Field: A Tribute to Norman Mailer

A Box of Books: An Exchange, on Matters Literary and Postal, with Hunter S. Thompson

The Secrets of Creative Love: A Short Story

In the System: A Technology Play
Photos: William Kennedy’s Albany—The City and Inspiration

Part III. Scholarly Perspectives: Critical Views of Kennedy’s Novels

Introduction to Part Three

William Kennedy as Journalist: Springboard to Novelist
Douglas Brinkley

Edward and Katrina Daugherty: A Match Made in Albany, Not in Heaven
Vivian Valvano Lynch

The Snows of Reduction: Representing Homelessness in Ironweed
Benedict Giamo

A Magical Time in Albany
Christian Michener

The Cyclical Impulse of The Flaming Corsage
Michael Patrick Gillespie

Courtesans, Stars, Wives, and Vixens: The Many Faces of Female Power in Kennedy’s Novels
Neila C. Seshachari


A celebration of the Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist who put Albany on the world’s literary map.


The award-winning novelist William Kennedy is perhaps best known for his Albany Cycle, a series of novels that put Albany on the world's literary map alongside James Joyce's Dublin, Gabriel García Márquez's Macondo, and William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County. Bootlegger of the Soul offers a fresh and authoritative overview of Kennedy's long literary career and his astonishing trajectory from journalist to struggling novelist to Pulitzer Prize winner. Included here are reviews, interviews, and scholarly essays on Kennedy's work, as well as essays, speeches, a play, and a short story by the author himself, together with more than fifty historical and personal photographs. Lively, readable, and brimming with the infectious wit and lyrical prose that animates Kennedy's novels, Bootlegger of the Soul is a celebration of a writer still working hard at his craft at age ninety.

Suzanne Lance is Associate Director of the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany, State University of New York. Paul Grondahl is Director of the New York State Writers Institute and is the author of several books, including Mayor Corning: Albany Icon, Albany Enigma and I Rose Like a Rocket: The Political Education of Theodore Roosevelt.


"Bootlegger of the Soul captures Kennedy's impact as a multitalented author through essays, interviews, and reviews, and serves as a biography, memoir, anthology, and tribute in one. " — Hudson River Valley Review

"There are no dead sentences in [Kennedy's] work. His language is vigorous, full of energy … He's just a pure writer. " — Saul Bellow

"William Kennedy's cycle of Albany novels may be one of the most exuberant literary feats of the past half-century. " — Colum McCann

"Kennedy's art is an eccentric triumph, a quirky, risk-taking imagination at play upon the solid paving stones, the breweries, the politicos, and pool sharks of an all-too-actual city. " — Thomas Flanagan