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Russell Banks Biography

(1940– ), Family Life, Hamilton Stark, The Book of Jamaica, The Relation of My Imprisonment, Continental Drift

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American novelist, born in Newton, Massachusetts, educated at Colgate University, Hamilton, New York, and the University of Carolina, Chapel Hill. His first novel, Family Life (1974), is a satirical fable set in an imaginary kingdom. Other novels, though they may be set in the past, follow a post-modernist trajectory. These include Hamilton Stark (1978); The Book of Jamaica (1980), in which an academic researches the history of the Maroons of that country, and is ambivalently accepted by them; and The Relation of My Imprisonment (1983), a story of religious heresy and puritan dissent. His most celebrated novel, Continental Drift (1985), tells of the linked destinies of the blue-collar family man Bob, and Vanise, a destitute Haitian refugee and mother. Banks's rich prose and strong narrative drive are evident in the novels Affliction (1989) and The Sweet Hereafter (1991), in which he continues what has been described as his ‘shattering dissection of contemporary American life’. Rule of the Bone (1995) concerns Bone, a homeless boy who has drifted into petty crime, whose life is changed by his encounter with the Rastafarian I-Man, with whom he embarks on an adventurous journey which culminates in Jamaica. His short-story collections include Searching for Survivors (1975) and Success Stories (1986).

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