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News Release


UAlbany Libraries Acquire William Kennedy Papers

Contact: Karl Luntta (518) 437-4980

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 24, 2003) -- The University at Albany has acquired the papers of Pulitzer-prize winning novelist William Kennedy, a collection comprising some 70 boxes of manuscripts, film scripts and memorabilia. The collection will be located in the University at Albany Libraries' M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives to serve as a resource for scholarly research on Kennedy's literary career, and on the social, political and literary histories of the Capital Region.

"Since I first began talking about giving my papers to a library," Kennedy said, "I suspected that they would eventually end up in Albany at the University. Now they have, and I'm very grateful. The papers are the evidence of a writer educating himself in storytelling, creating a prose style, and discovering a voice - deciding what belonged in the final versions of his books and what didn't. The books were written here in Albany, and now here they'll stay."

Before deciding on the University at Albany, Kennedy was approached by a number of institutions interested in the collection, including the Houghton Library at Harvard, the University of Texas at Austin and Boston University.

"Bill Kennedy's literary life brings to this University and to the Albany region incalculable riches, and with the addition of his papers to our wonderful M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives, our students and other scholars will forever be able to share in the wealth of his imagination and depth of his commitment to writing," said UAlbany President Karen R. Hitchcock. "We are enormously honored."

Kennedy is executive director of the UAlbany-based New York State Writers Institute, which he founded, and joined the University at Albany English Department in 1974. He is the author of eight novels to date, The Ink Truck his first. Seven subsequent works form his ongoing Albany Cycle of novels -- all centered on his native Albany during the 19th and 20th centuries. The most recent, Roscoe, was chosen as one of the seven best books of 2002 by the New York Times, and one of the year's eight best books by the American Library Association. Kennedy's Ironweed won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 and was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of the 20th century. Other Kennedy works include Legs, Billy Phelan's Greatest Game, Quinn's Book, Very Old Bones and The Flaming Corsage, as well as two children's books co-authored with his son Brendan, Charlie Malarkey and the Belly Button Machine and Charlie Malarkey and the Singing Moose. He has also published two books of nonfiction, O Albany!, an impressionistic history of his city, and Riding the Yellow Trolley Car, a collection of literary and critical essays. Ironweed was made into a film by Hector Babenco. Kennedy also co-wrote the screenplay of The Cotton Club with director Francis Ford Coppola.

Kennedy was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1993 and the Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002, and has received numerous literary awards including a McArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Regents Medal of Excellence from the State University of New York, and a Governor's Arts Award. He was also named a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in France, and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the board of directors of the New York State Council for the Humanities.

The acquisition of the Kennedy papers will be celebrated Wednesday, Oct. 29, 1-4 p.m. on the Third Floor of the New Library, uptown campus. The celebration will begin with the conversation "The Kennedy Papers - Understanding the Creative Imagination," between William Kennedy and the University at Buffalo's Mark Shechner, a professor of English. Shechner, a noted scholar of contemporary writing, has written on the works of such disparate writers as James Joyce and Philip Roth, and has been a frequent reviewer of William Kennedy's novels.


Established in 1844 and designated a center of the State University of New York in 1962, the University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in eight degree-granting schools and colleges. The University is engaged in a $500 million fundraising campaign, the most ambitious in its history, with the goal of placing it among the nation's top 30 public research universities by the end of the decade. For more information about this nationally ranked University, visit

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