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Event: Celebrating Ironweed's 40th anniversary with a public reading of the novel

Special event on Wednesday, Nov. 1, will mark the 40th anniversary of NYS Writers Institute founder William Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel


The first-ever, marathon public reading of the full novel of Ironweed by Albany’s native son, William Kennedy, which won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and put the author’s hometown on the literary map, will begin at noon and continue through 8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 1 to mark the 40th anniversary of the novel’s publication in 1983.


It will be hosted at the Albany Distilling Co. Bar and Bottle Shop, maker of Ironweed whiskey, at 75 Livingston Ave. in the North Albany neighborhood where the author grew up and where some of the fictional scenes in the Depression-era narrative set in 1938 take place.


The final chapters of Ironweed will be read on stage by the novel’s author and invited VIP guest readers, beginning at 7 p.m. at Capital Repertory Theatre, 251 N. Pearl St., adjacent to Albany Distilling Co.


EVENT DETAILS

THE 40th ANNIVERSARY OF IRONWEED -- A PUBLIC READING

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Reservations are required. Go to: https://capitalrep.org/event/ironweed/


Noon through 6:30 p.m. -- Albany Distilling Co., 75 Livingston Avenue, Albany NY 12207

7 to 8 p.m. -- Capital Repertory Theatre, 251 N. Pearl St., Albany NY 12207


All of the readers have been scheduled. View the list:


The ticket prices are a donation of $10, $25 or $50. All proceeds will go to benefit the food pantry and free meal outreach at Sacred Heart Church, 33 Walter St. in Albany, which was Kennedy’s parish when he was growing up.


The novel takes place in 1938 across three days -- All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day -- in the jagged, heartbreaking journey of Francis Phelan, an alcoholic vagrant and former Albany professional baseball player. He went on the run from his demons for two decades after accidentally dropping and killing his infant son. Consumed with Irish-Catholic guilt and confronted by the ghosts of his past, he returns at middle age to his hometown seeking redemption from his estranged family and to rekindle the love of Helen, a former girlfriend who is homeless.


“What better time for us sinners to gather than on All Saints’ Day? We will revel in the lyrical language of Ironweed the novel, while sipping Ironweed whiskey, and celebrating the literary genius of Albany’s Bard William Kennedy,” said Paul Grondahl, Opalka Endowed Director of the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany. The marathon reading also coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Writers Institute, which Kennedy founded in 1983 with seed money from a MacArthur “genius grant.”


Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl reads the opening pages from William Kennedy's Ironweed at St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands on Monday, Oct. 23, in advance of our Wednesday, Nov. 1, event...


“In 1996, Capital Rep proudly premiered Kennedy’s full-length play, Grand View,” said Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, the theatre’s Producing Artistic Director. “Getting to know the Kennedy pantheon

“In 1996, Capital Rep proudly premiered Kennedy’s full-length play, Grand View,” said Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, the theatre’s Producing Artistic Director. “Getting to know the Kennedy pantheon in that work cemented the theatre’s relationship with Bill and the rich history and mythology of our city. Having this Ironweed reading under our roof is an auspicious baptism for our new space -- and a fitting tribute to Bill and our community.”


“It’s an absolute joy to toast the Ironweed legacy with Albany Distilling Company, the New York State Writers Institute, and Cap Rep,” said Maeve McEneny-Johnson, Community Engagement Manager at Discover Albany. “There’s nothing better than sharing a good story and drink with friends. It’s a wonderfully Irish feel, but also something the whole community can enjoy.”


“As the name of our whiskey might suggest, we at Albany Distilling are huge fans of Mr. Kennedy; we are honored to be included in this celebration of his work,” said John Curtin, co-owner of Albany Distilling Company.


Although Ironweed was initially rejected by 13 publishers, it received major acclaim when it was published by The Viking Press in 1983, when Kennedy was 55 years old.


In The New York Times Book Review, Robert Towers wrote: “[Ironweed] is a kind of fantasia on the strangeness of human destiny, on the mysterious ways in which a life can be transformed and sometimes redeemed.Unlike many modern novelists who are distant from their characters, Kennedy’s fiction exudes compassion...a work of unusual interest, original in its conception, full of energy and color, a splendid addition to the Albany cycle.”


The critic Stefan Beck wrote: “A book cannot save a city, but it can prove that a city is worth saving.” Ironweed is included on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 Best Novels in English in the 20th century and was adapted into a critically acclaimed 1987 film starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.


Translations of Ironweed were published in several countries, and the book is included on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 Best Novels in English in the 20th century.

The reading of Ironweed is co-sponsored by Albany Distilling Co., Capital Repertory Theatre, Discover Albany, Historic Albany Foundation, The Irish American Heritage Museum, and the NYS Writers Institute.

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