RIDING THE YELLOW TROLLEY CAR by William Kennedy

RIDING THE YELLOW TROLLEY CAR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 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.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-670-84211-7
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993




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