Russell Banks Biography
Russell Banks was raised in New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts. The eldest of four children, he grew up in a working-class environment, which has played a major role in his writing.
Mr. Banks (who was the first in his family to go to college) attended Colgate University for less than a semester, and later graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before he could support himself as a writer, he tried his hand at plumbing and as a shoe salesman and window trimmer. More recently, he has taught at a number of colleges and universities, including Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence, University of New Hampshire, New England College, New York University, and Princeton University.
A prolific writer of fiction, his titles include Searching for Survivors, Family Life,Hamilton Stark, The New World, The Book of Jamaica, Trailerpark, The Relation of My Imprisonment, Continental Drift, Success Stories, Affliction, The Sweet Hereafter, Rule of the Bone, Cloudsplitter, The Darling, The Reserve, and The Angel On The Roof, a collection of short stories. He has also contributed poems, stories, and essays to The Boston Globe Magazine, Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review, Esquire, Harper's, and many other publications.
His works have been widely translated and published in Europe and Asia. Two of his novels have been adapted for feature-length films, The Sweet Hereafter(directed by Atom Egoyan, winner of the Grand Prix and International Critics Prize at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival) and Affliction (directed by Paul Schrader, starring Nick Nolte, Willem Dafoe, Sissy Spacek, and James Coburn). He is the screenwriter of a film adaptation of Continental Drift.
Mr. Banks has won numerous awards and prizes for his work, among them a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, Ingram Merrill Award, The St. Lawrence Award for Short Fiction, O. Henry and Best American Short Story Award, The John Dos Passos Award, and the Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Continental Drift and Cloudsplitter were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 and 1998 respectively. Affliction was short listed for both the PEN/Faulkner Fiction Prize and the Irish International Prize.
He has lived in a variety of places, from New England to Jamaica, which have contributed to the richness of his writing. He is currently living in upstate New York.
He is married to the poet Chase Twichell, and is the father of four grown daughters.
"Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story" is my long over due first exposure to the work of Russell Banks. Told in the first person by a man in love with what he sees as his great good looks and Sarah Cole, who he describes as the "homeliest woman he has ever known". She has been dead for ten years and the man is rummaging through his memories of their affair. He had a quality professional job, she packed boxed meals in a factory. The factory employes are all women and everybody hates their job. One night the man ends up in the bar where Sarah Cole and her friends go after work. The story is told through ten year old memories of a man whose self awareness may not be as acute as he thinks. He begins a sexual,relationship with Sarah. Much of his thought focuses on why a man as handsome as he would have an affair with a woman as ugly as Sarah. This is a long story which challenges us to discern the realities behind the man's perceptions.
I am glad I read this story. It is the lead story in The Scribner Anthology of the Contemporary Short Story. If you are interested in reading it, you can download the sample version of the book from Amazon. The full story is there.