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Russell Banks

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The great American novelist has died at 82:

Russell Banks, whose vivid portrayals of working-class Americans grappling with issues of poverty, race and class placed him among the first ranks of contemporary novelists, died on Sunday at his home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He was 82.

His literary agent, Ellen Levine, said the cause was cancer.

The prolific author of 21 works of fiction and nonfiction, Mr. Banks brought his own blue-collar background to bear in his writing, delving into the psychological pressure of life in economically depressed towns in the Northeast, their stark reality often shadowed by the majestic Adirondacks of northern New York State.

“In Banks’s world, geography is a kind of grim destiny,” Jennifer Schuessler wrote in The New York Review of Books in 2008.

Two of his novels, “Continental Drift” (1985) and “Cloudsplitter” (1998), were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Continental Drift is one of my favorite novels, and I can strongly recommend several others — most notably, Lost Memory of Skin, The Darling, The Sweet Hereafter, and Affliction (the latter two of which were made into superb movies by Atom Egoyan and Paul Schrader, respectively.) For some reason, I’ve never read Cloudsplitter, probably his most acclaimed novel currently looking imploringly at me from the bookshelf in my office, an omission this will remind me to take care of soon. R.I.P.

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