Picture of author.

Russell Banks (1940–2023)

Author of Cloudsplitter

37+ Works 10,661 Members 294 Reviews 38 Favorited

About the Author

The oldest of four children, Russell Banks spent his childhood and adolescence in New Hampshire and Eastern Massachusetts. His blue collar, working class background is strongly reflected in his writing. The first in his family to attend college, Banks studied at Colgate University and later show more graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill. While he was establishing himself as a writer, Banks spent time as a plumber, shoe salesman, and a window dresser. Banks's titles include Searching for Survivors, Family Life, Hamilton Stark, The New World, The Book of Jamaica, Trailerpark, The Relation of My Imprisonment, Continental Drift, Success Stories, Affliction, The Sweet Hereafter and Dreaming Up America. Banks has also written numerous poems, stories, and essays. Banks is the recipient of several awards and prizes. Among his accolades are the St. Lawrence Award for Short Fiction, the John Dos Passos Award, and the Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1986, Continental Drift was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Works by Russell Banks

Cloudsplitter (1998) 1,636 copies
The Sweet Hereafter (1991) 1,632 copies
Rule of the Bone (1995) 1,396 copies
Continental Drift (1985) 966 copies
Affliction (1989) 879 copies
The Darling (2004) 792 copies
Lost Memory of Skin (2011) 777 copies
The Reserve (2007) 659 copies
Trailerpark (1981) 238 copies
Foregone (2021) 133 copies
Book of Jamaica (1980) 120 copies
Success Stories (1986) 117 copies
The Magic Kingdom (2022) 106 copies

Associated Works

The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927) — Foreword, some editions — 4,658 copies
The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction (1983) — Contributor — 1,113 copies
A Walk on the Wild Side (1956) — Foreword, some editions — 622 copies
Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression (2001) — Contributor — 484 copies
Birthday Stories (2002) — Contributor — 447 copies
Sudden Fiction: American Short-Short Stories (1984) — Contributor — 359 copies
Montreal Stories (2003) — Introduction, some editions — 251 copies
The Best American Travel Writing 2001 (2001) — Contributor — 236 copies
Bad Trips (1991) — Contributor — 231 copies
The Best American Short Stories of the 80s (1990) — Contributor — 156 copies
The Best American Mystery Stories 2001 (2001) — Contributor — 141 copies
The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction (2008) — Contributor — 122 copies
Beneath the Roses (2005) — Contributor — 101 copies
Prize Stories 2000: The O. Henry Awards (2000) — Contributor — 95 copies
The Best American Mystery Stories 2014 (2014) — Contributor — 92 copies
It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art (2018) — Contributor — 70 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1985 (1985) — Contributor — 59 copies
The Sweet Hereafter [1997 film] (1998) — Original book — 39 copies
Antaeus No. 75/76, Autumn 1994 - The Final Issue (1994) — Contributor — 32 copies
New Stories from the South 2002: The Year's Best (2002) — Contributor — 31 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1971 (1971) — Contributor — 20 copies
New American Review #4 (1968) — Contributor — 15 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1975 (1975) — Contributor — 14 copies
The Hurly Burly and Other Stories (2021) — Preface, some editions; Editor, some editions — 7 copies
Speed: Stories of Survival from Behind the Wheel (2002) — Contributor — 6 copies
Race Traitor 10 (1999) — Contributor — 4 copies
Fire Exit, 4 — Contributor — 1 copy
Christmas 1968: 14 poets — Contributor — 1 copy


20th century (135) American (187) American fiction (103) American literature (349) anthology (547) books (76) books about books (122) classic (95) classics (106) collection (67) depression (69) essays (266) fiction (2,927) first edition (89) historical fiction (261) history (68) John Brown (69) literary fiction (62) literature (460) mystery (78) non-fiction (274) novel (434) own (71) Peru (183) psychology (60) Pulitzer (78) Pulitzer Prize (107) read (190) Roman (60) short fiction (61) short stories (846) short story (58) signed (64) slavery (57) South America (65) to-read (887) travel (213) unread (139) USA (126) writing (239)

Common Knowledge



The word that comes to mind is "plodding".
blueskygreentrees | 6 other reviews | Aug 20, 2023 |
Banks claims the story is an account of audio tapes that Harley Mann recorded. However, the story is a fictional account in which Banks describes life on a parcel of land in Osceola County purchased by Shakers from the Disston Land Company in 1896. The New Bethany Shaker colony, the novel's primary setting, is near Narcoossee on the Cloud River. The magic kingdom of Banks' book is this Shaker colony in south Florida where the main character, Harley Mann, moved with his mother and brothers in 1902. Banks has done his homework and writes a believable tale of a young man coming of age among the Shakers.

In the beginning, Harley Mann believes that the Shaker elders will nurture his family and provide the love and structure they need to survive his father's death. It is gratifying to have food and a reasonable place to sleep after becoming nearly enslaved on a plantation in Georgia before being recruited by the Shakers. Harley is learning to be a beekeeper and completes many tasks in the self-sufficient community, leading him and the readers to believe he will eventually become a leader.

The predominant focus and message of The Magic Kingdom is the description of the precepts of the Shakers, the Society of Believers. The Shakers engage in communal living, and they share all property. Additionally, they remain celibate, do not procreate, and must adopt and recruit new members to survive. Harley lived the Shaker life in good faith until his natural urges led to wanting a relationship with a woman. Banks describes Harley's inner turmoil and many other emotions as the novel progresses. The plot includes unresolvable conflicts that lead to anger, regrets, betrayals, and hypocrisy.

Some parts of the book were slow-moving, but I was immersed in the story and gained new insights into the Shakers, Koresh followers, and Ruskinites, groups that settled and played a role in the development of our country. Of course, the rustic nature of Florida's land was essential to the story's setting.

… (more)
LindaLoretz | 6 other reviews | Aug 6, 2023 |
This is a haunting book about the aftermath of a school bus crash that took the lives of fourteen children and left others injured, some irrevocably. It takes place in a small town in upstate New York named Sam Dent. There is shock, profound grief, followed by a need to find the responsible party. Personal injury attorneys descend on the small town to represent the families, many attending the funerals of the children to make contact with their parents.

It is told from different perspectives. These include the bus driver, Dolores Driscoll, who escaped unscathed, but shattered by the enormity of the accident; Mitchell Stephens, a NYC attorney with a daughter fighting an addiction; Billy Ansel, a widowed Vietnam veteran whose twins both died in the crash; and Nichole Burnell, the fourteen-year-old girl who will never walk again and has been the victim of her father's sexual abuse for years.

This is a book whose stories will stay with me. The small town itself becomes a character when the inhabitants slowly come together following the tragedy.
… (more)
pdebolt | 33 other reviews | Jul 24, 2023 |
Continental drift is beautifully written, but a seriously depressing book to read. It's the tale of an average Joe kind of a man who makes one bad decision after another in his life and consequently, we the reader, watch his life spiral further and further down a very slippery slope. And what makes the book even sadder is that while Bob made these decisions and is therefore responsible for the consequences, his unfortunate wife and children deserved better.
kevinkevbo | 22 other reviews | Jul 14, 2023 |



You May Also Like

Associated Authors


Also by

Charts & Graphs