Ironweed (novel)

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First edition
AuthorWilliam Kennedy
CountryUnited States
PublisherViking Press, NY
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages227 pp
813/.54 19
LC ClassPS3561.E428 I7 1983
Preceded byBilly Phelan's Greatest Game 
Followed byQuinn's Book 

Ironweed is a 1983 novel by William Kennedy. It received the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and is the third book in Kennedy's Albany Cycle. It is included in the Western Canon of the critic Harold Bloom.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

Ironweed is set during the Great Depression and tells the story of Francis Phelan, a bum originally from Albany, New York, who left his family after accidentally killing his infant son. The novel focuses on Francis's return (after being gone twenty-two years) to Albany over the triduum of All Hallows Eve, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day; moreover, a surreal element is added to the narrative as Phelan sees and tries to interact with dead people from his troubled past. The novel features characters that are present in some of Kennedy's other Albany Cycle books.


Kennedy wrote the screenplay for the 1987 film version directed by Héctor Babenco and starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Major portions of the film were shot on location in Albany. The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (for Nicholson) and Best Actress in a Leading Role (for Streep).

In 1986, Audio Partners produced an audiobook version of Ironweed, read by Jason Robards.

In 2009, produced an audio version of Ironweed, narrated by Jonathan Davis as part of its Modern Vanguard line of audiobooks.


  1. ^ Beacham, Walton (1986). Beacham's Popular Fiction. Beacham Pub./Research Pub. p. 723. ISBN 9780933833104.
  2. ^ "The Western Canon," by Harold Bloom

External links[edit]