Key West Literary Seminar
"SPIRIT OF PLACE: American Literary Landscapes"

January 10-13, 2002

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Panelist - Russell Banks

Russell Banks
Russell Banks

Photo by Marion Ettinger

RUSSELL BANKS was born in eastern Massachusetts and raised in New Hampshire "where the winters were endless, the soil barren, and the houses falling down." The eldest of four children, he grew up in a working-class, hardscrabble world that has played a major role in shaping his writing.

Banks, the first in his family to go to college, was admitted to Colgate University in 1958 on full academic scholarship. He attended "for less that a semester". After leaving college he worked as a plumber, a shoe salesman, and a window dresser before returning to academia at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. At UNC, Banks and a group of friends began publishing a literary magazine, Lillabulero.

His writing career now launched, Banks returned to New Hampshire where he taught at Emerson College and the University of New Hampshire. Banks continued to teach (at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, and most recently in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University) while rapidly gaining recognition and acclaim for his novels and short stories.

Banks has won numerous awards and prizes for his work, including Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships; O. Henry, Pushcart, Fels, and Best American Short Story Awards; the John Dos Passos Award; the Literature Award from The American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was a PEN/Faulkner Finalist (Affliction and Cloudsplitter) and a Pulitzer Prize Finalist (Continental Drift and Cloudsplitter).

Two of his novels, Affliction and The Sweet Hereafter, have been made into critically-acclaimed films. Three others, Rule of the Bone, Continental Drift, and Book of Jamaica are currently being adapted to film, with Banks working on the screenplay for Bone and Drift. Banks was recently elected President of the International Parliament of Writers, where he is actively involved in expanding IPW's Cities of Asylum Network.

Bibliography:
The Angel on the Roof: The Stories of Russell Banks, 2000
Cloudsplitter, 1998
Rule of the Bone, 1995
The Sweet Hereafter, 1995
Affliction, 1989
Success Stories, 1987
Continental Drift, 1985
The Relation of My Imprisonment, 1984
Trailerpark, 1981
The Book of Jamaica, 1980
The New World, 1978
Hamilton Start, 1978
Family Life, 1975
Searching for Survivors, 1975

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