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Lost Memory of Skin: A Novel by Russell…
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Lost Memory of Skin: A Novel (edition 2011)

by Russell Banks

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5353318,829 (3.64)27
Member:brenpike
Title:Lost Memory of Skin: A Novel
Authors:Russell Banks
Info:Ecco (2011), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 432 pages
Collections:Your library, TIOLI 2012
Rating:****
Tags:12/12

Work details

Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks

  1. 00
    The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe (Babou_wk)
    Babou_wk: La présence de l'écrivain lui-même à l'intérieur du roman.
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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Definitely not subject matter for an easy, enjoyable read! I did find the book very thought provoking. The life of the criminal sex offender is a strange conundrum. ( )
  Cricket856 | Jan 25, 2016 |
I feel like more people should read this sort of thing, just to open their eyes on the gaps in society, and some of the problems out there. For example, teenage sex offenders really shouldn't be labeled...20 with a 17 year old, I'm talking that sort of thing.

However, I lost interest in the main character early in the book, and that is never a good thing.
( )
  Schlyne | Nov 12, 2015 |
I don't ever remember finishing a book, putting it down, and saying aloud, "Well, that was a stupid book." Until now. The book had potential. It is about a young sex offender who is on probation and living under a bridge because he isn’t allowed to live within so many miles of day cares, schools, etc. He can’t leave the county, so under this bridge is the only place he can live. Then along comes this professor who is allegedly studying the connection between convicted sex offenders and homelessness. The form a friendship of sorts, but the character of the professor is just not very well developed and I just didn't get it.

The book had potential to make powerful statements about the complicated nature of pedophilia and other sex offenses, and it seemed like maybe it was going to get there, but it never really did.
( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
Not sure about this one, looks interesting but grim.
  mlake | Apr 28, 2015 |
Lost memory of skin by Russell Banks is a novel characterized by ambivalence. The story for this long novel is rooted in reality, focussing on a new type of outcast. It seems the authors wants to draw attention to social injustice, but the message of the novel is unclear because of the weird plot turns.

The weird plot turns are hard to explain, although the message seems to be that some people can get away with a great deal more than other people. This sense of moral injustice is created through the juxtaposition of the two main characters in the novel, the Kid and the Professor.

The novel describes the hopeless life of a new type of outcasts in American society. This outcast is formed by convicted sex offenders. The inhumane treatment of these people, and the, possibly unforeseen, consequences of the legal ramifications, such as the on-line sex offenders registry, their obligation to wear a GPS anklet and, worst of all, the legal measure which forbids them to live within 2,500 meters of a school, leads to such incredible limitations that they can barely find a spot to dwell in the city. Their lives are effectively destroyed and there is no escape from their predicament. Part of the ambivalence of the novel is that the novel depicts both seemingly very innocent "victims", such as the Kid, along with all other tpes of sex offenders, many of whom seem to be very deliberate, or likely recidivist. Whether or not through circumstance, some are involved in criminal activity, involving even more child abuse, as described in the photo shooting episode in the novel.

Non-Americans will be baffled by the inhuman legal practice in the United States, where tripping up by the police belongs to accepted legal procedure, while the sex offender's registry and other measures lead to medieval and life-long punishment and stigmatization.

The case of the Kid is presented as almost pure-bred innocence; a young man, who made a few stupid mistakes, and was set up and fell into a trap. There is much more to this simple story-line. The novel seems to suggest that, possibly, there are many more young men like the Kid. Their moral values are blurred by the ubiquitous availability of pornography, which in the life of modern teenagers has a very different status than in the lives and minds of older people. In fact, the social life of young people, as compared with that of an earlier generation, has changed to the effect that their "life on line" has replaced the more natural social life, which has led to loneliness, and inability to establish "normal" social contacts. As large parts of their lives take place on lone, so it seems natural that dating takes place on line as well. Essentially, the Kid is a recognizable, very possiblly realistic character. The Kid is quite obviously guilt-ridden. While, even yo himself, he is quite obviously an offender, he is also very much a victim.

The Professor, on the other hand, is a much darker, Falstaffian character. The picture that emerges of the Professor is that he is a highly intelligent person. His exceptionally superior intelligence enables him to conceal much of his life from others, effectively living multi-layered lives. The Professor is also described as hugely obese. This feature suggests that, despite his superior intelligence, his judgement is seriously flawed. His eating disorder is as much as symbol of his moral disorder: he thinks he can get away with anything.

As the "names" or "labels" (always capitalized) of the characters suggest, "the Kid", "the Professor" and "the Wife" are larger-than-life characters. They are caricatures. In the Kid, innocence is blown up and exaggerated. In the Professor cunning and intrigue are exaggerated. In the Wife, understanding and foregiveness, although this element plays only a minor role, towards the end of the novel.

Many of the surprising twists and turns of the plot involve antics of the Professor. The effect of these twists is to make the Professor an even more mysterious character. These plot turns, in all their capriciousness, suggest that even the Professor might conceal what the Kid is so obviously accused of, and that what brings them together, the Professor's interest in people like the Kid, or possibly even specifically the Kid, is a shared common secret. This shared secrecy is played out in the sub-plot of the Treasure Island myth.

Lost memory of skin is a complicated novel. It is a successful novel in as far as it makes readers think about this social problem. The novel also clearly speaks about the overall state of morals in the United States, not only the blurring or moral awareness of younsters, but also the injustice between the socially disadvantaged versus the socially advantaged, and a legal system which is clearly not ready to deal with new norms and a new reality.

Perhaps this is what the title of the novel, Lost memory of skin, hints at. A skin which can no longer adapt to its surrounding, either because it does not have the capacity to emulate the new colour for a new environment or has exhausted adaptiveness.

Finally, the Kid's pet, an iguana, is a freak. A freak of an animal that scares people. Perhaps it is also a reference to that other American novel that describes outcasts on the fringes of American society; Vollmann's The Rainbow Stories. ( )
  edwinbcn | Nov 1, 2014 |
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It isn't like the kid is locally famous for doing a good or a bad thing and even if people knew his real name it wouldn't change how they treat him unless they looked it up online which is not something he wants to encourage.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061857637, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2011: In Lost Memory of Skin, Russell Banks plays peek-a-boo with the reader lifting each corner just enough to wonder at what may lie underneath. When we meet the Kid, he is grappling with his public status as a convicted sex offender, living under a Florida causeway with other men whom society finds “both despicable and impossible to remove and thus by most people simply wished out of existence.” Enter the Professor, with his genius IQ and massive physical presence, eager to prove that men like the Kid have been shaped by social forces and are capable of change. The pair seem diametrically opposed yet share a “profound sense of isolation, of difference and solitude…,” held hostage by their secrets in this morally complex and thought-provoking story of illusions and blurry truths in a novel that that hums with electricity from beginning to end. --Seira Wilson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:12 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

This is a novel that illuminates the shadowed edges of contemporary American culture with startling and unforgettable results. Suspended in a strangely modern day version of limbo, the young man at the center of this morally complex new novel must create a life for himself in the wake of incarceration. Known in his new identity only as the Kid, and on probation after doing time for a liaison with an underage girl, he is shackled to a GPS monitoring device and forbidden to live within 2,500 feet of anywhere children might gather. With nowhere else to go, the Kid takes up residence under a south Florida causeway, in a makeshift encampment with other convicted sex offenders. Barely beyond childhood himself, the Kid, despite his crime, is in many ways an innocent, trapped by impulses and foolish choices he himself struggles to comprehend. Enter the Professor, a man who has built his own life on secrets and lies. A university sociologist of enormous size and intellect, he finds in the Kid the perfect subject for his research on homelessness and recidivism among convicted sex offenders. The two men forge a tentative partnership, the Kid remaining wary of the Professor's motives even as he accepts the counsel and financial assistance of the older man. When the camp beneath the causeway is raided by the police, and later, when a hurricane all but destroys the settlement, the Professor tries to help the Kid in practical matters while trying to teach his young charge new ways of looking at, and understanding, what he has done. But when the Professor's past resurfaces and threatens to destroy his carefully constructed world, the balance in the two men's relationship shifts. Suddenly, the Kid must reconsider everything he has come to believe, and choose what course of action to take when faced with a new kind of moral decision. In this novel the author examines the indistinct boundaries between our intentions and actions. It probes the zeitgeist of a troubled society where zero tolerance has erased any hope of subtlety and compassion, a society where isolating the offender has perhaps created a new kind of victim.… (more)

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