Books: A Winning Rebel with a Lost Cause

THE INK TRUCK by William Kennedy; Viking; 278pages; $15.95

To literary New York, it was the equivalent of somebody's winning the state lottery. A middle-aged novelist, burdened with debts, a leaky roof and a bruised ego, suddenly found himself celebrated and rich. It was as sudden as the surprise phone call that informed William Kennedy, 56, that the MacArthur Foundation was giving him one of its "genius awards": $264,000 tax free with no strings attached.

Thereafter, Kennedy's phone never stopped ringing. "Congratulations. The National Book Critics Circle has just named Ironweed the best novel...

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