The Flaming Corsage
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Moving back and forth between the 1880s and 1912, this sixth novel in William Kennedy’s acclaimed Albany cycle follows the lives of Edward Daugherty, a first generation Irish American who will break out beyond Albany as a playwright, and Katrina Taylor, a beautiful, seductive woman with complex attitudes towards life. Their marriage is a passionate one, but a cataclysmic hotel fire changes it into something else altogether. The Flaming Corsage evocatively portrays the seething, contradictory impulses of our humanity, lusts and furies that know no bounds of time or place.
gallant man really was dying and by loving him she felt like a traitor to her own dead, for he loathed her father and spiritually worked against him all his life, and against the world that had shaped her family and her life. She looked at Edward and her sobbing intensified: my husband who put my sister and father in their graves, guiltless, honorable man now losing his own father. And all her love for Edward seemed remarkable and perverse. This Main Street, this North End, where the Daugherty
blood spew. Two years gone and the residual bone pain from the bullet (which had entered my left chest where the burning stick pierced Katrina: God’s own symmetry) continued to plague my sleepless nights. Yet it was the forgotten wound, spoken of by neither Katrina nor Melissa; for I’d behaved badly, had not summoned the penitential grace to die from my bullet. “Tell me about your play,” she said. “Am I in it?” “Someone like you is in it, but it isn’t you.” “But I could play the role.” “You
sit here and look at these good burghers with their gold watch chains dangling over their pus bellies,” Maginn said, “and I all but drown in my loathing.” “That’s juvenile,” said Edward. “They’re only people who’ve found a way to make some money.” “Come on now, Edward. They’re another breed. With them and us it’s like thoroughbreds and swine. Those mosquito-loving Irish canal diggers in your novel are sewer rats to them. But I loathe them just as much as they loathe me. Is there one of them in
Edward hadn’t seen Cappy since his son, Bitsy, a softspun boy born without ears, who’d earned candy money eating live frogs for a nickel, went up in flames in church while lighting a candle for his mother, Mamie. Mamie weighed maybe five hundred pounds—nobody ever found a way to weigh her—and grew wider with the years. When Doc McArdle came to examine her dropped stomach she refused him access: “I never showed my front end to anybody but Cappy White. He was the first one, he’ll be the last one.”
you, of course. He plots to destroy you. Why didn’t you know this the instant Giles blew Felicity into naked infinity? Who profited from that explosion? Yes, the cur Cully was a likely avenger. But when myopia wanes, Maginn, without doubt, emerges as the epiphanic presence at the slaughter. And you, Edward, the true target, you couldn’t see that; you and Maginn such great friends, brothers of the ink stain, comrades of the imagination. Gainsaying fool is what you were. Now here you stand,