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Public Appearance

Southwestern University hosted a public appearance by acclaimed writer Russell Banks on Tuesday, October 30, at 7:30 pm in Alma Thomas Theater. Following Mr. Banks' address, he signed copies of his books at a reception in Caldwell Carvey Foyer.


Russell Banks was raised in New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts. The eldest of four children, he grew up in a working-class, hardscrabble world that has played a major role in shaping his writing. Mr. Banks attended Colgate University, 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. Russell Banks is married to the poet Chase Twichell, and is the father of four grown daughters. 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.

compiled from various promotional materials and book reviews.


(With William Matthews and Newton Smith) 15 Poems, Lillabulero Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1967.
Waiting to Freeze, Lillabulero Press (Northwood Narrows, NH), 1969.
30/6 (poems), Quest (New York City), 1969.
Snow: Meditations of a Cautious Man in Winter, Granite Press (Hanover, NH), 1974.
Searching for Survivors, Fiction Collective (New York City), 1975.
Family Life, Avon (New York City), 1975, revised edition, Sun & Moon (Los Angeles), 1988.
The New World (stories), University of Illinois Press (Urbana), 1978.
Hamilton Stark (novel), Houghton (Boston), 1978.
The Book of Jamaica (novel), Houghton, 1980.
Trailerpark (stories), Houghton, 1981.
(With others) Antaeus, No. 45-56: The Autobiographical Eye, Ecco (New York City), 1982.
The Relation of My Imprisonment (novel), Sun & Moon (College Park, MD), 1984.
Continental Drift (novel), Harper (New York City), Hamish Hamilton (London), 1985.
Success Stories, Harper, 1986.
Affliction, Harper, 1990.
The Sweet Hereafter, HarperCollins (New York City), 1992.
Rule of the Bone, HarperCollins, 1996.
Trailerpark, HarperCollins, 1996.
Hamilton Stark, HarperCollins, 1996.
Cloudsplitter, HarperCollins, 1998.
(With Arturo Patten) The Invisible Stranger: The Patten, Maine, Photographs of Arturo Patten, HarperCollins, 1999.
The Angel on the Roof: The Stories of Russell Banks, HarperCollins, 2000.


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 Merril 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. Continental Drift was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 and Affliction was short-listed for both the PEN/Faulkner Fiction Prize and the Irish International Prize. In early 2001, Russell Banks was elected as President of The International Parliament of Writers, following Wole Soyinka and Salman Rushdie.


Salon on Russell Banks Salon's interview explores several of Mr. Banks' books.

The Sweet Hereafter
Film version of Russell Banks novel

Preliminary Events

Prior to Mr. Banks' visit to Southwestern, the library sponsored a series of informal discussions centering on two of Mr. Banks novels:

Affliction (Harper, 1990) Banks' protagonist, Wade Whitehouse, 41, is imprisoned by fate in Lawford, New Hampshire, a hell frozen over. He digs wells for chump change, lives in a trailer, drinks, and alienates his daughter. In two weeks' time, Wade demolishes whatever hopes he had for family happiness. In flashbacks to his Dad-abused youth, we understand how Wade is doomed to continue the cycle of failure.

The Sweet Hereafter (HarperCollins, 1992) Banks builds a world--a small U.S. town near Canada--and peoples it with four vivid, sensitive souls linked by a school-bus tragedy: the bus driver; the widowed Vietnam vet who was driving behind the bus, waving at his kids, when it went off the road; the perpetually peeved negligence lawyer who tries to shape the victims' heartaches into a winning case; and the beauty-queen cheerleader crippled by the crash, whose testimony will determine everyone's fate. The acclaimed Atom Egoyan-produced movie version debuted in 1997.

    Monday, October 1, from noon to 1 p.m. in McCombs Campus Center
    Faculty Forum presented a Book Discussion Group on Affliction
    Facilitators: Walt Herbert, Elizabeth Green-Musselman, Ed Kain, Christine Kiesinger

    Monday, October 22, at 6 p.m., in the Marsha Room of McCombs Campus Center
    Film screening and discussion on The Sweet Hereafter
    Facilitators: David Gaines, Elisabeth Piedmont-Marton, David Olson

For more information , call or email Dana Hendrix, (512) 863-1241.

Mr. Banks' appearance is partially funded by the Susan Vaughan Foundation, Inc. of Houston. Through the generosity of the Foundation, the Writer's Voice is pleased to bring literary artists of national and international prominence to the Southwestern University campus.


Copyright 2001

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