Monday, March 10, 2008

Russell Banks' most important books

Russell Banks is the founding president of Cities of Refuge North America and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes and awards.

His many books include the novels Continental Drift, Rule of the Bone, Cloudsplitter, The Sweet Hereafter, and Affliction.

Banks' latest novel is The Reserve.

He recently told Newsweek about his five most important books.

One book on his list:
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

A masterpiece about our need to conquer nature even as we worship it.
Read about the other four books on Banks' list.

From the Guardian's mini-profile of Melville:
In his lifetime Melville was best known for Typee, his fictional account of Polynesian life; Moby-Dick sold poorly and was berated for its "mad" English and its "ravings" - as Melville put it, "a Polar wind blows through it, and birds of prey hover over it. Warn all gentle fastidious people from so much as peeping into the book - on risk of a lumbago and sciatics." Joseph Conrad later described it as "a rather strained rhapsody with whaling for a subject and not a single sincere line in the three volumes of it". But its mixture of action, symbolism and philosophy coupled with stylistic innovation and sheer volume had an enormous influence on the American novel. His sexuality has also been much discussed; the posthumously published Billy Budd came in at 13 on a list of the best 100 gay books.
--Marshal Zeringue