R.I.P. Russell Banks
January 8, 2023 § 2 Comments
The New York Times reports on the death of novelist Russell Banks, chronicler of small-town working class individuals of upstate New York and elsewhere, at age 82 of cancer.
Discussing the foundations of the book [Cloudsplitter]in The Paris Review in 1998, he said, “I am interested in the whole question of the possibility of heroism, especially in a secular age and especially in a democratic society.”
I’ve had a few unread Bankses–Continental Drift and The Sweet Hereafter–on my shelf for a while. As someone who is trying to write a novel that encompasses several distinct subset populations of a small town, I don’t know why I didn’t think to move him up the TBR list. Who are modern writers of small-town experience, where people know enough about each to be busybodies (think Shirley Jackson, Harper Lee, Stephen King’s Dolores Claiborne) but have grown distant as factories, churches, and town commons have fallen by the wayside as places where people congregate? Banks and Richard Russo would seem to come close, but I seek what’s out there in the post-internet era, where people try to live in closed communal spaces and in broad, cosmopolitan spaces at the same time.