Russell Banks Dies: American writer Russell Earl Banks wrote fiction and poetry. He was born on March 28, 1940, and died on January 7, 2023. Banks was best known as a novelist for his “detailed accounts of domestic conflict and the daily struggles of ordinary, often outcast characters.”
Most of his stories are about things he did or saw as a child and often have “moral themes and personal relationships.” Banks was a member of the International Parliament of Writers and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Author of ‘The Sweet Hereafter,’ Russell Banks Dies At 82!
Russell Banks, a prize-winning fiction writer who set books like “Affliction” and “The Sweet Hereafter” in the cold, rural areas of his native northeast and imagined the dreams and downfalls of everyone from modern blue-collar workers to the radical abolitionist John Brown, has died. He was 82.
Banks died on Saturday in upstate New York, his editor Dan Halpern told the Associated Press. He was a professor emeritus at Princeton University. Halpern said that Banks had cancer and was getting treatment for it. Joyce Carol Oates called Banks a “beloved friend of so many” and a “great American writer” on Twitter.
She also said that he died at home in peace. “I liked Russell and thought he was smart and kind,” Oates said. His best book was “Cloudsplitter,” but all of his books are great. Banks was born in Newton, Massachusetts, and grew up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
He thought of himself as the heir to 19th-century writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Walt Whitman. He aimed for high art and a deep understanding of the country’s spirit. He was the son of a plumber, and he wrote a lot about working-class families and people who died trying to get out, stuck in a “kind of madness” that the past can be erased, and people like himself who got away and lived to ask “Why me, Lord?”
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Banks lived in Florida for part of the year and had a home in Jamaica for a while, but he was mainly from the north and had a strong sense of right and wrong. In his stories, it snowed a lot, like in The Sweet Hereafter, about a town in upstate New York that was destroyed by a bus accident, or in Affliction, about a desperate, divorced police officer in New Hampshire who was damaged by his paranoid thoughts.
In Banks’s 1985 critically acclaimed novel Continental Drift, oil burner repairman Bob Dubois leaves his home state of New Hampshire to work with his wealthy brother in Florida, only to find that his brother’s life is just as empty as his own.
The most ambitious book he ever wrote was Cloudsplitter. It was a 750-page book about John Brown and his unlikely plan to end slavery in the United States. The story was written long before Banks was born, but it was based on something very close to home.
Banks lived near Brown’s grave in North Elba, New York, and went by it so often that Brown “became a kind of ghostly presence,” the author told the AP in 1998. In 1999, Banks’s book Cloudsplitter was one of the books that were up for the Pulitzer Prize.
She was one of the finalists for Continental Drift 13 years ago. He was also a part of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and his book Cloudsplitter won the Anisfeld-Book Award.
— Publishers Weekly (@PublishersWkly) January 10, 2023
In the late 1990s, two of his books were made into acclaimed movies: The Sweet Hereafter, which was directed by Atom Egoyan and starred Ian Holm, and Affliction, which was directed by Paul Schrader and won James Coburn the Academy Award for best-supporting actor.
Two of Banks’ more recent works are A Permanent Member of the Family, a collection of short stories, and Foregone, a novel set in 2021. In Foregone, Banks wrote about his own life. He was an American filmmaker who fled to Canada during the Vietnam War and reflected on his wild youth.