Award-Winning Fiction Writer Russell Banks Dies At 82!

Russell Banks Dies: Russell Earl Banks was an American author of 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 marginalized 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 American Academy of Arts and Letters and the International Parliament of Writers.

Award-Winning Fiction Writer Russell Banks Dies At 82!

Russell Banks, an award-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.

Russell Banks Dies
Russell Banks Dies

Professor emeritus at Princeton University, Banks died Saturday in upstate New York, his editor Dan Halpern told the Associated Press. Halpern said that Banks was getting care for cancer. Joyce Carol Oates called Banks a great American writer and a “beloved friend of so many” on Twitter.

She also said that he died peacefully at home. “I loved Russell and admired his great skills and kind heart,” Oates said. “Cloudsplitter” was his best book, 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, aiming 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, caught 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?”

Banks spent part of the year in Florida and had a home in Jamaica for a while, but he was mainly a northerner with an old Puritan sense of right and wrong.

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In his stories, it snowed a lot, like in The Sweet Hereafter, about a town in upstate New York that was torn apart by a bus accident, or in Affliction, about a desperate, divorced police officer in New Hampshire who was destroyed 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 discover that his brother’s life was just as empty as his own.

Cloudsplitter was his most ambitious book. It was a 750-page story 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 inspired by something very close to home.

Banks lived near Brown’s grave in North Elba, New York, and passed by it often enough that Brown “became a kind of ghostly presence,” the author told the AP in 1998. In 1999, Banks was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for her book Cloudsplitter.

Thirteen years earlier, she was a finalist for Continental Drift. He was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and won the Anisfeld-Book Award for Cloudsplitter.

In the late 1990s, two of his books were turned 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.

A Permanent Member of the Family, a collection of short stories, and Foregone, a novel set in 2021, are two of Banks’ more recent works. In Foregone, an American filmmaker who fled to Canada during the Vietnam War and looked back on his impulsive youth, Banks wrote about his life, so he knew what he was talking about.

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