New Fiction: A Permanent Member of the Family – Russell Banks

Banks is one of our contemporary masters. Justifiably lionized for novels like The Sweet Hereafter and the more recent Lost Memory of Skin, his stories are not to be underestimated either. And they are a great way to dip in and see what this major American writer is all about.

Cornel West has said of Banks, “Like our living literary giants Toni Morrison and Thomas Pynchon, Russell Banks is a great writer wrestling with the hidden secrets and explosive realities of this country.” His subjects are class, race, aging, the struggles of youth and those whose lives are circumscribed by poverty. Most importantly, though, his subject is always people—individuals working out their lives in often trying and perplexing circumstances. Michael Ondaatje has summed it up this way: “Russell Banks’s work presents without falsehood and with tough affection the uncompromising moral voice of our time… I trust his portraits of America more than any other—the burden of it, the need for it, the hell of it.”

“Banks is a master of the kind of old-school, unadorned realism that hasn’t really been the fashion in short stories since the days of Raymond Carver. But here he executes it with a psychological precision that would be the envy of any of the latter-day fabulists or word-drunk genre-benders currently in vogue. And while most of these stories cleave to his signature plain-spoken aesthetic, there’s still room in this sly collection for a few surprises…”
   — New York Times Book Review

In a dozen woodcut tales–firmly incised, deeply grained–Banks distills the lives of people of unfailing grit enduring reduced or radically altered circumstances. ‘Former Marine’ portrays a tough 70-year-old who has figured out a way to stay solvent that is guaranteed to freak out his three sons, each in law enforcement. Banks measures the geometry of family in the title story, a look back at a divorce and the fate of a beloved dog….[I]n the wrenching “Blue,” a thrifty and determined 47-year-old grandmother finds herself trapped in a ludicrous earthly hell, condemned by the dangerous conflation of life and television, dream and reality. A resounding collection by an essential American writer.”
 — Booklist

“Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.”
— Kirkus Reviews

A Permanent Member of the Family (9780061857652) by Russell Banks. $25.99 hardcover. 11/12/13 on sale.

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