Books: Imaginative Necessities

IRON WEED by William Kennedy; Viking; 227 pages; $14.75

Writers tend to resent it when their work is labeled regional, and with good reason. The term, once honorably used in the U.S. to identify the literatures of a young and far-flung nation, has fallen on hard times. Thanks principally to the homogenizing effects of television and jet travel, regionalism now suggests narrowness and parochialism, a boondocks mentality afflicting authors too timid or dumb to make it in the big city. Such connotations are, of course, unfair; a novel set in Manhattan's East Side, for...

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