is the main character in Ironweed Thisnthird novel is set in the same time andnplace as the second; the same backgroundnevents and characters appear in both.nFrancis is a bum whose life is a pattern ofndeath and flight. As a talented young baseballnplayer, he was involved in a troUeynstrike and killed a man by using his skillfulnthrowing arm to hurl a baseball-sizenstone. He runs. Later he returns andnmarries, but when he accidentally dropsnand kills an infant son, he runs again, desertingnhis family. Now he returns afternmore than 20 years of drinking, violence,nand vagrancy. During Halloween and AllnSaints Day, the dead he has known appearnto him in random encounters; he talksnwith them the same way he does withnother chance acquaintances.nThe novel begins in a cemetery andnends with Francis apparently killingnanother man, this time using a baseballnbat on a cop during a raid on a hobonjungle. And on the same night, the womannand man he had teamed up with die.nFrancis is surroimded with death: “Bodiesnin alleys, bodies in gutters, bodies anywhere,nwere part of his eternal landscape:na physical litany of the dead.” He has hadn”a lifetime of corpses.” He is plaguednwith guilt for some of these deaths, andnhe ponders the question of responsibility:nthe deaths, his desertion of his family,nand the shape of his life in general. Hensees himself as “a man in whom therenwould never be an equanimity of bothnimpulsive and premeditated action,”nand he is convinced that he Uved in “anworld where events decided themselvesnand that all a man could do was to staynone jump into their mystery.” He concludes,n”My guilt is all that I have left. If Inlose it, I have stood for nothing, donennothing.”nAt the conclusion, Francis is in a boxcarnheaded out of town again, revertingnto the same old pattern of flight describednearlier in the novel: “Francisnbegan to run, and in so doing, reconstitutedna condition that was as pleasurablento his being as it was natural: the runningnof bases after the crack of the bat, thenrunning from femily, from bondage, fromnlOinChronicles of Calturendestitution of spirit through ritualisticnstraightemngs, the running, finally, in anquest for pure flight as a fiolfiUing mannerismnof the spfrit.”nKennedy’s writing is slightly reminiscentnof Steinbeck’s in its portrayal ofnthe beautiful little people, the lovablenbums, of the 30’s. There is also the flavornof Steinbeck’s nonteleological or “is”nthinking: things are the way they are becausenthat is the way they are. Ironweed,nwe are told in an epigraph, is a membernof the sunflower family, receiving itsnname from the toughness of the stem.nThe title seems to signify that Francis isnlike the ironweed, undesirable butntough, and part of an abundant species.nHis life as a bum is repeatedly linked withnsleeping in the weeds. What are the implicationsnof this? Weeds are as muchnplants as are flowers and vegetables. Innfact, the definition of weed is problematic,nbecause some weeds may not be universallynrecognized as such. The definitionnreaUy derives from what particularnpeople consider useful and desfrablenrather than from some inherent characteristicnof a plant. Kennedy may be suggestingnthat people like Francis are weeds,nyet they have as much purpose and dignitynin the human sphere as weeds do innthe scheme of plant life. Weeds, after all,nare usually the hardiest of plants.nThese Albany novels are characterizednby a nonjudgmental attitude; this passesnfor compassion in contemporary fiction.nIn the forthcoming issue of Chronicles of Culture-.nQualitative Livingnin a Quantitative Worldn”A strong can be made that Western culture began tondefine itself with the remarkable conjunction of art andnphilosophy which emerged in Periclean Athens during thenfifth century B.C. Arguably, ;ilso, the ‘decline of the West’nbegan—or at le;ist accelerated—with the development ofnmodern psychology as a popular pseudoscience during thencurrent centur)’.. . . ‘ITie classical attempt tt) understandnman’s complex relationships to the mysteries of nature andnlife was crudely transformed into an effort to explain … thatnhas turned into the bizarre Tlieater of Contemporan’ Psychologyn…. [which] may well have produced the ultimatenFrankenstein monster, a seU’-consciousness that paralyzesninstead of liberates and which finally destroys the verynphenomena it seeks to explain.”n—from “Tales of the Unknown”nbv David A. HallmannOpinions & Views—Commendables—In FocusnPerceptibles—^Waste of MoneynThe American Proscenium—ScreennArt—Music—Correspondence —JournalismnLiberal Culturennn