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This article is about the novel. For the film, see Ironweed . For the plant, see Vernonia

Ironweed is a 1983 novel by William Kennedy. It received the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and is the third book in Kennedy's Albany Cycle. It placed at number ninety-two on the Modern Library list of the 100 Best Novels written in English in the 20th Century and is also included in the Western Canon of the critic Harold Bloom.

Plot summary

Ironweed is set during the Great Depression and tells the story of Francis Phelan, an alcoholic vagrant originally from Albany, New Yorkmarker, who left his family after accidentally killing his infant son while he may have been drunk. The novel focuses on Francis's return to Albany, and the narrative is complicated by Phelan's hallucinations of the three people, other than his son, whom he killed in the past. The novel features characters that return in some of Kennedy's other books.


Kennedy wrote the screenplay for the 1987 film version directed by Hector Babenco and starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Major portions of the film were shot on location in Albany. The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (for Nicholson) and Best Actress in a Leading Role (for Streep).

In 2009, produced an audio version of Ironweed, narrated by Jonathan Davis as part of its Modern Vanguard line of audiobooks.

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