William Kennedy

Award-winning writer and journalist William Kennedy is known for his novels and non-fiction works that use Albany’s rich history and intriguing cast of residents as inspiration. Born in Albany in 1928, Kennedy attended Christian Brothers Academy and Siena College, where he graduated in 1949. A year later he was drafted into the army and began writing for his military unit’s newspaper. After being discharged in 1952, he spent the next decade working as a reporter and editor in Albany, Miami, Florida, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he also began writing fiction full-time. He returned home to Albany in 1963 and has never left.

Kennedy used the L. C. Smith & Corona typewriter shown here to compose his first five novels, from The Ink Truck (1969)through Quinn’s Book (1988). His second novel, Legs (1975), began his “Albany Cycle,” which later included his best-known work, Ironweed (1983). Set in depression-era Albany, Ironweed earned Kennedy a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. It also won him recognition in the movie industry. With Francis Ford Coppola, Kennedy wrote the screenplay for the 1984 film The Cotton Club, and the following year he wrote the script for Ironweed, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson.

In addition to writing, Kennedy taught journalism and creative writing at SUNY Albany from 1974 to 1982, and also taught writing at Cornell University from 1982 to 1983. With money from a 1983 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, Kennedy founded the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany, and is its Executive Director.

 

Magnifying Glass
William Kennedy’s Typewriter
L.C. Smith & Corona Typewriters, Inc.
c. 1930
Metal, paint, enamel, plastic
Courtesy of William Kennedy
Magnifying Glass
William Kennedy
1960s
Gelatin silver photographic print
Courtesy of William Kennedy