About the Author
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Billy Phelan" is not as moving or universal a novel as Ironweed but, nevertheless, is a significant advance for Kennedy. When compared to it's predecessor in the Albany trilogy (Legs), BP seems to me to have greater allegorical depth while also presenting many of its theses in a clearer manner. That is, while there's more going on under the surface level pseudo-realism about Albany politics and seedy hangouts it's easier for the reader to get at this reflective, substantive stuff. Billy Phelan is ostracized, blacklisted from the hustler's life he has whole heatedly embraced simply for staying true to the ethos he takes to be indelibly imbued into the hustler's way of being. He is a man who wants nothing more than to be a part of the action. He wants not for power, for material gain, for fame; rather he wants nothing more than to thrive in his element...to exercise his given powers and innate drives to their full capacity. And yet, what he quickly learns is that most of his would be compatriots are quick to roll over to power, to kneel and kiss the ring, to junk the code of the streets just as soon as there is an inkling of repercussion. Billy, however, is true blue and is thus nearly hoisted by his own petard. Perhaps Kennedy is suggesting that the reach of power is inescapable. That even those of us who don't care for it, don't live by it, and don't strive for it are still easily quashed if we end up registering on the wrong radar. However, Billy ultimately finds himself reestablished in the Albany nightlife. He isn't ruined by his uncompromising commitments. Instead he is saved by the adoring pen of the other principle character, martin Daugherty. Daugherty himself is full of contradiction and compromise, but he has the presence of mind to appreciate Billy as an idealization come to life, a kind of perfect specimen of his chosen species. This suggests then, that while perhaps some of us have the luxury of leading an uncompromising existence, the compromises of others are perhaps an necessary precondition for our so living. Maybe we wouldn't compromise are little more than free riders, parasites sucking, leeching off of the respect of those given in to moderation.
Another excellent installment in Kennedy's Albany series. Albany politics and a kidnapping allow Kennedy to weave his magic with characters and dialogue.