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 ...
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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 Here also is Kenndy's illuminating unpublished interview with Robert Penn Warren, and his extended interview in Barcelona with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who also provided Kennedy with two original drawings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 will preceive Kennedy's love of it all when you climb aboard the yellow trolley car.

A dazzling collection of essays, profiles, and interviews from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Ironweed and Very Old Bones. Spanning 40 years of writing this selection of non-fiction is "graced with an emotionally satisfying arrangement and a deep appreciation for life's variety."--The Washington Post. Photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This engaging miscellany of some 80 articles, interviews and reviews should delight fans of noted novelist Kennedy ( Ironweed ). From newspaper pieces printed in his hometown of Albany, N.Y., in the 1950s to more polished essays in national magazines, these selections suggest how Kennedy's literary voraciousness contributed to the growth of his distinctive, sinuous style. He interviews and reviews writers Malamud, Bellow and Doctorow, celebrates Irish forebears Joyce and Beckett, and pronounces himself still ``tickled silly'' by Damon Runyon. Once a resident of Puerto Rico, Kennedy developed a subspeciality in Latin American fiction; his observations about Garcia Marquez and Fuentes hint at a source of his fabulist style. Sections on pop culture and on Albany contain some dross, but there are lively pieces on Louis Armstrong and the pleasures of screenwriting, and touching reminiscences of the author's working-class grandfathers. For Kennedy, good-natured humility accompanies literary purpose, and this ``oblique autobiography'' is a good warm-up for a full memoir. (May)
Library Journal
Reading this book is a little like reading the Sunday papers. Between the covers is an amalgam of news stories; human interest pieces; music, dance, and travel items; personal essays; an obituary; and even a bit about the comics. The 86 pieces collected here are broken into six sections that date from 1954 through 1992. They include early news columns, interviews, book reviews, book introductions, and life experiences. Much of the text concerns writing, and Kennedy examines his own masterful creations as well as the great works that touched him. He speaks admiringly of Doctorow, Mailer, Bellow, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and reverently of Joyce, Beckett, Hemingway, and Damon Runyon. Other pieces cover movies, sports, and, of course, Albany. Whether he's discussing his taste for oysters or the plight of the homeless, there's a touch of the poet about Kennedy, making his writing a great pleasure to read no matter what the subject. Another winner from Kennedy; highly recommended.-- Michael Rogers, ``Library Journal''
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140159929
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/1/1994
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 7.74 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

William Kennedy

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.

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Table of Contents

I. The Writer on the Examining Table
The Beginning of the Book: Riding the Yellow Trolley Car
The Beginning of the Writer: Eggs
A Memoir: Hearst Is Where You Find Him (And I Found Him in Albany)
Early Assignments: Langford, Prominent Cat, Dies; Albert the Swimmer; Tracking the Missing Leopard
A Speech: Be Reasonable, Unless You're a Writer
The Hopwood Lecture: Writers and Their Songs
An Interview: Tap Dancing into Reality
Fragments of a Talk with The Paris Review: Ironweed and Style
An Argument: Rejection and Henry James (Ironweed award speech to National Book Critics Circle)
Winning the Pulitzer: Who Are You Now That You're Not Nobody?

II. Examining Writers: Some Interviews and Essays
A Week with the Verbivorous Joyceans: The Quest for Heliotrope
Bernard Malamud: On the Short Story; On The Fixer; Pictures of Fidelman: A Review
Ernest Hemingway: His Clear-Hearted Journalism; His Dangerous Summer
J. P. Donleavy: Captivated by Ginger: A Non-Interview
James Baldwin: The Distractions of Fame
The Beat Generation: Ginsberg's Albany Pain; Where Did They Go? Everywhere.
Jerzy Kosinski: On Still Being There
Walker Percy: Grim News from the Moviegoer
Saul Bellow: Intellectual Activity: A Form of Resistance; If He Doesn't Have a True Word to Say, He Keeps His Mouth Shut
E. L. Doctorow: A Strong Voice in the Universe; Shimmering Loon Lake
Norman Mailer: An Eavesdropper at the Lotos Club
Robert Penn Warren: Willie Stark, Politics, and the Novel
Damon Runyon: Six-to-Five: A Nice Price

III. Thirteen Reviews, One Review Rebutted
Samuel Beckett: The Artful Dodger Revealed
The Lime Works: Thomas Bernhard's Citadel
Players: DeLillo's Poisoned Flowers
Something Happened: Joseph Heller's Great Monologue
Ionesco's Remarkable Irreducibility
Far Tortuga: Peter Matthiessen's Misteriosa
O'Hara's Letters: A Quest for Celebrity
The Grapes of Wrath at Fifty: Steinbeck's Journals
Malcolm Muggeridge's Wasted Life
Frank Sullivan: Serious Only About Humor
The Fan Man: Kotzwinkle's Buddha as a Saint of Dreck
Nathanael West: The Stink of Life and Art
Nothing Happens in Carmincross: Benedict Kiely's Deathly Variety Show
Freedom of the City: Clive Barnes Is Wrong About Brian Friel

IV. Ten Latin Writers, Plus Translator
Gabriel García Márquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude; The Yellow Trolley Car in Barcelona: An Interview
Gregory Rabassa: Keeper of the Golden Key: An Interview
Carlos Fuentes: Distant Relations
Osman Liins: Avalovara
Lygia Fagundes Telles: The Girl in the Photograph
Jorge Amado: Tereza Batista: Home from the Wars
Carlos Casteneda: Tales of Power
Ernesto Sábato: On Heroes and Tombs
Julio Cortázar: A Manual for Manuel
Pedro Juan Soto: Spiks; To What Extent Was Enrique Soto the Creation of Pedro Juan Soto?: An Interview
Mario Vargas Llosa: Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter

V. Exotic Life Forms Beyond Fiction
Frank Sinatra: Pluperfect Music
Pablo Casals: Master Class at Marlboro
Satchmo: "All My Days Are the Same"
Paul McCartney: The Major Possum Game
Jiggs: "What's the Matter with Father? I Saw Him Drink Water."
The Photography of Stillness: Muckraking the Spirit
Marshall McLuhan's Message Is...?
Diane Sawyer: The Subject Is Beauty
"Tropicality" Defined
Rudolph Valentino: He's No Bogart
Cassius Clay Arrives
Ballet: Everybody Loves a Fat Girl, Right?
Roberta Sue Ficker Is Going to Become Suzanne Farrell
The Cotton Club Stomp
The Making of Ironweed
The Homeless: Do They Have Souls?

VI. Albany Resurgent: More Reports from the Native
O Albany!: Remarks to the Publication Party
Jack and the Oyster
The Capitol: A Quest for Grace and Glory
Talking to the High Court
Jody Bolden or Bobby Henderson: Either Way the Music Was Great
The Charcoal Man: Warming Up to the Press
Barney Fowler: The Quest for Curmudgeonous Joy
Radicalism and Dwight MacDonald: Not What They Used to Be
Requiem for a Lady at the Bottom of the World
Baseball at Hawkins Stadium: "Here's Your Son, Mister."
Family: My Life in the Fast Lane; Dana's Ironic Hiccups; Snapshots: Two Grandfathers

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