William Kennedy Papers, 1926-2003
- Kennedy, William, 1928-
- The William Kennedy Papers document nearly a half century of research, writing, and publishing efforts of the internationally recognized, Pulitzer Prize winning author, playwright, essayist, journalist, script writer, professor, and champion of the arts. The collection consists of records related to all of Kennedy’s fiction and nonfiction books through 2002, including his "Albany Cycle" of novels, film scripts, essays, and newspaper articles from the Albany Times-Union. In addition, there is correspondence with other significant authors of American literature, biographical materials, and records documenting a trip to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with President Bill Clinton.
- 41.2 cubic ft.
- English and English
- Preferred citation:
- Preferred citation for this material is as follows: and Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, William Kennedy Papers, 1926-2003. M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Kennedy Papers).
Access and Use
- Conditions Governing Access:
Access to this record group is unrestricted.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
- Scope and Content:
The William Kennedy Papers document nearly a half century of research, writing, and publishing efforts of the internationally recognized, Pulitzer Prize winning author, playwright, essayist, journalist, script writer, professor, and champion of the arts. Born and raised in Albany, New York, Kennedy’s novels and nonfiction works frequently evoke a strong sense of place in the state capital, centering upon the city, its history, and its people during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Kennedy transferred his materials to the M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives at the University at Albany through a series of acquisitions beginning in 2002. The collection features records related to all of Kennedy’s fiction and nonfiction books through 2002 as well as essays and newspaper articles from the Albany Times-Union. Well-known for embodying the heart of Albany in his work, Kennedy’s donations include extensive material from his “Albany Cycle” of novels, most prominently the Pulitzer Prize winning Ironweed (1984). However, his earlier works like Legs (1975) and more recent endeavors, such as The Flaming Corsage (1996) and Roscoe (2002) are also well represented. Kennedy also wrote two children’s books with his son, with related papers in the collection. All the files chronicle Kennedy’s meticulous research, writing, publishing, and promotion processes and feature proposals, numerous drafts with edits, rewrites, galleys, page proofs, correspondence, reviews, interviews, residual checks, and printed ephemera.
The Kennedy Papers also chart the transition of novels to film; Kennedy’s own Ironweed, filmed in the Albany area, which appeared on the big screen in 1987, and James Haskins’ The Cotton Club from 1984 for which Kennedy co-wrote the screen play with director Francis Ford Coppola. Relevant papers include working drafts, shooting scripts, looping and line scripts, production notes, call sheets, shooting schedules, and cast lists. In addition the collection has materials related to movie premieres, public relations efforts to market the films, and critics’ reviews.
Kennedy’s correspondence files demonstrate his significant role in late twentieth and early twenty-first century American literature and the arts and offer insights into relationships with other key figures in American literature. Letters detail his close friendships and associations with fellow authors, most notably mentor Saul Bellow and Hunter S. Thompson, as well as John Cheever, Frank McCourt, Joyce Carol Oates, and Philip Roth. The collection also features exchanges with journalists, poets and New York politicians, including Gay Talese, Andy Rooney, and former governor Mario Cuomo.
In addition to having a dedicated series for each of Kennedy's fiction and nonfiction books through 2002, both film scripts, children's books, and correspondence, the papers feature series devoted to related work and other endeavors. The collection holds Kennedy's professional and personal research, interviews, essays, and newspaper articles. In 1995 Kennedy accompanied President Clinton on a trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland as Clinton engaged in key peacemaking efforts. The collection includes background information briefings for the visit, correspondence, and news clips.
- Biographical / Historical:
William Kennedy, born 1928 in Albany, New York, is an award-winning author and journalist. He is best known for his “Albany Cycle” of eight published novels, one of which, Ironweed, received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1984.
Following his childhood and primary and secondary schooling in Albany, Kennedy attended nearby Siena College where he earned a bachelor of arts degree and edited the school's newspaper. Kennedy then began his professional literary career as a journalist at a local newspaper, followed by a U.S. Army newspaper during military service in Europe, the Albany Times-Union, and later as the managing editor of the San Juan Star in 1959. After attending Saul Bellow's fiction writing workshop at the University of Puerto Rico, he left his editorial position to focus on a career as a writer and subsequently returned to Albany in 1963. Kennedy initially wrote feature articles part-time for the Albany Times-Union about slum conditions and integration in the city that garnered him a Pulitzer Prize nomination and were later the inspiration for his nonfiction work O Albany! (1983). While serving as the Times-Union film critic, he released his first novel The Ink Truck (1969).
Beginning in 1975 with his novel Legs, Kennedy introduced his “Albany Cycle” of fiction, books that center upon the state capital and frequently focus on the struggles of recurrent characters, most notably the extended Phelan family. To date he published seven additional novels in this series, most recently Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes (2011). Kennedy also co-authored two children’s books with his son Brendan Kennedy, Charlie Malarkey and the Belly Button Machine (1986), and Charlie Malarkey and the Singing Moose (1993). His first play, Grand View (1996) appeared at the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany. Kennedy released a second nonfiction book, Riding the Yellow Trolley Car, in 1993, a collection of essays, interviews, and human interest stories from the past 40 years.
Kennedy also garnered attention with his screenplay writing. He co-wrote The Cotton Club (1984) with the movie’s director Francis Ford Coppola. He penned the script for the film version of his novel Ironweed (1987).
In addition to his own writing career, Kennedy serves as a cultural and educational mentor to others in the field. Kennedy is the founder and executive director of the University at Albany-based New York State Writers Institute. He joined the University at Albany’s English Department in 1974, teaching creative writing and journalism as an instructor until 1982, and now serves as a professor. He also taught at Cornell University in 1982-1983 and was professor at the University of Oregon from 2001-2002.
Today Kennedy is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and serves on the board of directors of the New York State Council for the Humanities. In addition to his Pulitzer Prize, he also received many other awards and accolades including a National Book Critics Circle Award, a MacArthur Fellowship (Genius Award), part of which served to establish the Writers Institute, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Regents Medal of Excellence from the State University of New York.
Kennedy met and married his wife Dana Sosa while working in Puerto Rico, and the couple has three adult children.
- Acquisition information:
All items in the William Kennedy Papers were acquired by the University at Albany Foundation and transferred to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, between 2002 and 2005.
The collection is organized into the following series:
The materials are arranged chronologically for each series except for Series 5: O Albany!, Series 14: Essays and Series 16: Correspondence, which are arranged alphabetically by subject. Series dedicated to literary projects chart the development of each respective effort, generally with working and edited drafts and notes filed first, followed by final drafts, and then related correspondence, reviews, and publicity efforts also arranged by date.
- Processing information:
Processed in 2010 by Jodi Boyle and Kali M.D. Roy.
Albany, New York
Manuscripts for publication
- Kennedy, William, 1928-
Clinton, Bill, 1946-
Oates, Joyce Carol, 1938-
Thompson, Hunter S.
Diamond, Legs, 1895 or 6-1931
Kennedy, William, 1928- Interviews
Kennedy, William, 1928- Ironweed
Kennedy, William, 1928---Authorship
Kennedy, William, 1928---Film and video adaptations
- Albany (N.Y.)