Day: May 18, 2012

Ironweed by William Kennedy

A Bum’s Life – Ironweed by William Kennedy

Before the title page of the novel is a description of the ironweed. What is it? It is a kind of plant that resembles a sunflower, blue-purple in color. What’s so special about it is that the plant is super tough. With that, what would you expect from the characters of the novel? Tempered from the hardest stuff. Not wimps, you might say? Even the cover of my edition shows a portrait of a man, presumably the protagonist Francis Phelan. Long face, sunken cheeks, furrows between the brows, and eyes that seem to tell you not to mess with him. Before the hard face, Francis was a baseball player. Now, he’s a gravedigger. Part time, that is, for he is a full-time bum. And like most bums, they have their stories to tell. Two things in Francis’s past: he accidentally killed a man during a strike and he accidentally killed his own son by accidentally dropping him on the floor. The first one can really qualify as an accident. Things like that happen, given that …