Conversations with Russell Banks
Over thirty years of interviews with the author of The Sweet Hereafter, Affliction, and the Pulitzer Prize finalist Cloudsplitter
If Russell Banks (b. 1940) says he doesn't “think about [his] reader at all when [he's] writing,” he clearly enjoys talking with his actual readers, whether they be students, writers, or academics, delighting in the diversity of his audience and in the “greater democratization of commentary” provided by alternative media.
These conversations span a period of over thirty years, from 1976 with the publication of his first novel, Family Life, and his first collection of short stories, to 2008 with The Reserve. Most date from the late 1990s on, when the publication of Pulitzer-finalist Cloudsplitter in conjunction with the back-to-back release of film adaptations of his novels The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction suddenly put Banks in the spotlight as “Hollywood's Hottest New Property. ”
Banks has always believed that the writer plays “the role of the storyteller,” fulfilling very basic and universal human needs: “to talk about the human condition, to tell us something about ourselves. ” Yet, for him, writing is not a one-way process. It is an exchange where the key is to tune in and listen—to the voices of the characters engaging the writer's imagination and to the voices of the readers sharing their own experiences of his books and of the world.