Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Kennedy's Corsage a disappointing read

59. The Flaming Corsage, William Kennedy, 6-25, p. 209

Former newspaperman William Kennedy won acclaim as a novelist for his insight into the seedy underbelly of Albany, New York, from the filth-infested saloons of the Irish workingmen to the smoke-filled backrooms of the local pols.

His Albany Cycle began in 1975 with Legs and continued with Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game, Ironweed, The Flaming Corsage and, in 2002, the superb, but largely unappreciated Roscoe.

The Flaming Corsage (1996) is the least of these works. Some of Kennedy’s trademark strengths are here; there are passages of such realistic clarity as to take away a reader’s breath. Sadly, such passages are too few—replaced by an embarrassing metaphysical riff on death, which absorbs the thoughts and dictates the actions of one of the novel’s main characters.

Until this novel, I considered Kennedy one of those writers always worth reading, but The Flaming Corsage is disappointing. This book was best left on the remainder pile from which I rescued it.

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