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William Kennedy, photo by Judy C. Sanders
William Kennedy


NYS Writers Institute, October 3, 2011
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Ballroom, Campus Center, Uptown Campus
8:00 p.m. Reading | Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus



William Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author known for his “Albany Cycle” of novels, will read from his new novel, Changó’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes (2011), on Monday October 3, 2011 at 8:00 p.m. in Page Hall on the University at Albany’s downtown campus. At 7:30 p.m. in the same location, just prior to the reading, the new 30-minute WMHT documentary, William Kennedy’s Prohibition Story, about bootleggers and gangsters in early 20th century Albany, will be screened. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m., the author will present an informal seminar in the Ballroom, Campus Center on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. The events are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute, and are free and open to the public.


William Kennedy,
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, celebrated author of books set in Albany, and founder and executive director of the New York State Writers Institute, is the author of the new novel, Changó’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes (October 2011). A tale of revolutionary intrigue, heroic journalism, crooked politicians, drug-running gangsters, Albany race riots, and the improbable rise of Fidel Castro, the novel follows the epic adventures of Albany journalist Daniel Quinn and his unpredictable Cuban wife Renata, during the turbulent 1950s and 1960s. Half of the book is set in Albany, a city that has inspired all of Kennedy’s previous novels, and half is set in Cuba, a nation that has fascinated Kennedy since his newsman days in the Caribbean more than half a century ago.

Chango's Beads and Two-tone ShoesIn a starred review, Publishers Weekly said, “Kennedy’s journalistic training is manifest in a clear, sure voice that swiftly guides the reader through a rich, multilayered, refreshingly old-school narrative. Thick with backroom deal making and sharp commentary on corruption, Kennedy’s novel describes a world he clearly knows, and through plenty of action, careful historical detail, and larger-than-life characters, he brilliantly brings it to life.”

Changó’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes is Kennedy’s first novel since Roscoe (2002), a tale of early 20th century Albany city politics that was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Writing in the Atlantic Monthy, Thomas Mallon called it, “the best novel of city-hall politics to appear in ages…. This new book has a lyricism and a gusto rarely achieved in serious American novels about politics, which are rare to begin….”

Kennedy received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983 for the novel Ironweed, one of several novels in what has become known as the “Albany Cycle” (1975-2011). Other novels in the cycle include Legs (1975), Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game (1978), Quinn’s Book (1988), Very Old Bones (1992),and The Flaming Corsage (1996). “What James Joyce did for Dublin and Saul Bellow did for Chicago, William Kennedy has done for Albany, New York…. His cycle of Albany novels is one of the great resurrections of place in our literature,” said James Atlas in Vogue.

Born in 1928 in Albany’s North End, Kennedy attended Public School 20, the Christian Brother’s Academy, and Siena College prior to pursuing a career in journalism. He joined the Post Star, in Glens Falls as a sports reporter and, after being drafted in 1950, worked for an army newspaper in Europe. Upon his discharge he joined the Albany Times-Union. In 1956 he accepted a job with a newspaper in Puerto Rico. Kennedy became managing editor of the fledgling San Juan Star in 1959. He quit two years later to write fiction, and eventually returned to Albany in 1963, rejoining the Times Union as an investigative journalist writing principally about politics, corruption and city life.

Kennedy taught creative writing and journalism as an instructor from 1974 to 1982 at the University at Albany. After the publication of Ironweed, Kennedy was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1983, part of which was used to found the Writers Institute at the University.

Just prior to Kennedy’s reading, the Writers Institute will screen the new WMHT
30-minute documentary entitled William Kennedy’s Prohibition Story. In this original production, which will premiere on WMHT on the same day and in the same time slot, Kennedy unfolds the convoluted and violent tale of gangster-bootlegger Jack “Legs” Diamond during the tumultuous period of American history known as Prohibition. As Kennedy recounts the details of Diamond’s life, he reveals how this gangster embodied the essence of public sentiment toward Prohibition and, emblematic of Kennedy’s other work, how Albany represented a cross-section of the American ethos.

The local broadcast of the documentary will coincide with the release of the new national PBS series by Ken Burns entitled, Prohibition: America’s Greatest Experiment.


For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.