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Russell Banks grew up in a working-class world that has played a major role in shaping his writing. Through a dozen novels and short story collections that have won him Guggenheim and NEA grants and a St. Lawrence Prize for fiction, Banks has made a life’s work of charting the causes and effects of the terrible things “normal” men can and will do. He writes with an intensely focused empathy and a compassionate sense of humor that help to keep readers, if not his characters, afloat through the misadventures and outright tragedies in his books. A deep appreciation for his work has led the cities of Seattle and Rochester to each select his book The Sweet Hereafter as a "book in common" for their communities to read.
A prolific writer of fiction, Russell Banks’s titles include The Darling, The Sweet Hereafter, Cloudsplitter, Rule of the Bone, Affliction, Success Stories, Continental Drift, Searching for Survivors, Trailerpark, The Book of Jamaica, The New World, and Hamilton Stark. The Angel on the Roof is a collection of thirty years of Banks’ short fiction. His latest novel, The Reserve, was published in early 2008; it is set in the Adirondacks in 1936-37, at the height of the Great Depression. Also in 2008, Seven Stories Press published Dreaming Up America, an American edition of his nonfiction book of essays, which was previously published in France under the title Amerique Notre Histoire -- his meditation on American history. In May 2008, HarperCollins published Outer Banks (which includes three of his previously published novels: Family Life, Hamilton Stark, and The Relation of My Imprisonment). Russell Banks has contributed poems, stories, and essays to The Boston Globe Magazine, Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review, Esquire, Harper’s and numerous others.
His novels, Affliction and The Sweet Hereafter, were adapted into feature films which received widespread critical acclaim: James Coburn won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and Nick Nolte was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for their roles in “Affliction;” “The Sweet Hereafter” won three awards, including the Grand Prix and the International Critics Award at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. Currently, Martin Scorsese has plans to produce the film of Cloudsplitter, with a screenplay by Banks, and Raoul Peck directing, for HBO; Raoul Peck is also directing the feature film of Continental Drift, with a screenplay by Banks, which will star Josh Hartnett. The Darling (selected by The New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book of 2004) is being adapted for Focus Features; it will be directed by Martin Scorsese and will star Cate Blanchett. A film of Rule of the Bone, with a screenplay by Banks, is in development, to be directed by Alain Berliner. Banks is currently working on the screenplay for Rule of the Bone. His latest novel, The Reserve, came out in 2008.
Included among the numerous honors and awards Russell Banks has received are the Ingram Merrill Award, the John Dos Passos Award, the Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Laure Bataillon Prize for best work of fiction translated into French, for the French edition of The Darling. Continental Drift and Cloudsplitter were Pulitzer Prize finalists; Affliction and Cloudsplitter were PEN/Faulkner Finalists. Banks was New York State Author (2004–2008) and is the founder and President of Cities of Refuge North America.
Russell Banks: A Reading
as author at MIT World Series: MIT Writers Series,